Newt’s Ridiculous Wikipedia Page Edits
As recently as last week, Newt Gingrich’s communications director has been criticized by editors on Wikipedia for dozens of edits he has made and requested in defense of his candidate.
While some of the changes were minor, Joe DeSantis has removed or asked to remove factual references to Gingrich’s three marriages as well as mentions of ethics charges brought against him while he served as speaker of the House. These efforts continued as recently as Monday.
Wikipedia records show DeSantis has made over 60 adjustments to entries in the online, publicly-edited encyclopedia to the biographical entry on Gingrich, the similar page on his wife, Callista, and a separate page on one of their books, Rediscovering Good in America.
DeSantis has actively lobbied for changes to the articles since mid-December in a discussion forum called “Talk” on the site, and previously from May to June of last year, though his most recent direct edit to the site was in June of 2011.
Last Tuesday, DeSantis drew the ire of an editor on the site.
“I’ll raise the question in the appropriate place, but I have to say this micro-managing by a Gingrich campaign director is a matter of concern to me even though you now are identifying yourself. Pointing out factual errors is one thing, but your input should not go beyond that, even here on Talk,” the editor known as Tvoz, wrote on a page devoted discussing possible edits
The site has a conflict of interest guideline which suggests that individuals should not edit “on behalf of clients,” or on subjects to which they have “close relationships” or “financial interest.” But the site does allow “non-controversial edits,” and DeSantis has a profile on the site which identifies his relationship to Gingrich.
DeSantis defended his changes in a statement:
“I stopped making direct edits in May 2011 because I was alerted to the COI rules,” he said. “Earlier I thought that simply disclosing my affiliation was enough but it wasn’t. So I started posting requests on the Talk page.
“This has been far more successful and the other editors on Wikipedia have largely received this very positively,” he continued.
But several editors on the site have taken issue with his edits and requests.
“The fact that Callista is Speaker Gingrich’s third wife is well-known and indisputable. Please do not remove it from her biography,” wrote editor Cullen328. “Instead, please defer to the judgment of experienced editors, and raise your concerns on the talk page. Thank you.”
But other editors have been more sympathetic, voicing their appreciation of DeSantis’ disclosure of his affiliation.
“Many editors have pointed out your straightforwardness as an example of honorable editing by an agent,” an editor known as Buster Seven posted. “I agree with their assessment.”
DeSantis’ edits, which began in October of 2008, included rewriting, removing, and editing lines, including several edits to references of Gingrich’s marriages, according to Wikipedia edit records, which are published and publicly viewable on the site. The edits may include repairing “vandalism,” such as incorrect or biased information, posted to the articles.
From the introduction to an article on Callista, DeSantis struck: “She met her husband met while he was in the House, and had an affair while he was conducting the impeachment investigation for President Bill Clinton.”
On a separate occasion, he removed lines about Gingrich’s first divorce and remarriage which said he approached his then-wife in the hospital following surgery.