Ajit Pai, the Federal Communications Commission chairman, is used to being under fire. But on Monday night, Pai, who has come under intense scrutiny for his approach to hot-button issues such as net neutrality, got a momentary reprieve from the headlines courtesy of his wife, Janine van Lancker.
While introducing her husband at the Institute for Education’s salon at the French ambassador’s residence, Van Lancker highlighted attributes that rarely make it into the news media’s coverage of Pai, assuring the crowd of diplomats, technologists and journalists that she was “here to tell you the good stuff,” including his favorite pastimes.
“His favorite guilty pleasure is watching ‘Judge Judy.’ Yes, you’ve heard it right,” she declared, adding that Pai, who has worked as a lawyer for the Justice Department, the Senate Judiciary Committee and Verizon Communications, went with his mother to Los Angeles to meet with the TV court show celebrity and her bailiff. “That absolutely made his year. As he likes to say, he got to visit the highest court in the land.”
Pai acknowledged his penchant for watching “Judge Judy,” saying of Van Lancker’s lighthearted introduction that “there are few things more dangerous than being introduced by someone who knows you.”
The FCC chairman proved as funny as his wife, landing a few zingers during an after-dinner Q&A session. Asked about the proposed merger between cellphone service providers Sprint and T-Mobile, he demurred from opining on what the FCC planned to do and noted that commission members were slated to meet with officials from the companies soon. When a Washington Post reporter offered to attend the meeting in person, Pai quipped, “Right, because merger review dies in darkness,” riffing on the newspaper’s slogan, “Democracy dies in darkness.” As the crowd burst out laughing, Pai quickly clarified that the session would be closed to the news media.