Newt Gingrich's communications has edited Callista Gingrich's Wikipedia page 23 times since early 2008.
The communications director, Joe DeSantis, made changes to erase sensitive details of the Gingrich marriage from the site, in apparent violation of Wikipedia's ban on conflicts of interest.
DeSantis removed from the introduction of Callista Gingrich's biography the phrase: "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." He wrote in the comments box: "Edit intro to strike last sentence.Factually innacurate.Gingrich did not lead the impeachment investigation of Clinton. Also, superfluous info for introductory paragraph."
He also changed the introduction from "Callista is the third wife of former Speaker of the House of Representatives Newt Gingrich" to "Callista is the wife of former Speaker of the House of Representatives Newt Gingrich," striking from the introduction the fact that Gingrich had been married before.
Other DeSantis edits are more innocuous, like adding a image to Callista's biography, or capitalizing the C in .com.
Other posts included adding information on all the books Callista had voiced and noting that she was the valedictorian of her high school. DeSantis also changed information related to her heritage to include that she was also part Swiss.
When some of his comments on Wikipedia were noticed by Politico in December, DeSantis said “Occasionally I will post notes to the Talk page to suggest changes and raise issues. We have found working with the Wikipedia community pays off by reaching a consensus on language and that results in less ‘edit wars’ than if we were to just change language ourselves."
In fact, his previous edits had been far more aggressive; in May of 2011, he formally noted to Wikipedia that he had a conflict of interest, and retreated into the "talk" page, rather than directly editing entries.
However, DeSantis -- already a Gingrich staffer -- had been editing both Newt and Callista's biographies for almost three years before informing Wikipedia about the conflict of interest. His editing during that period did not include all any talk page suggestions and he directly edited the articles rather than "working with the Wikipedia community," as he told Politico.
DeSantis' editing appears to be violation of Wikipedia's "Conflict of Interest" in editing policy. Of the eight examples cited by Wikipedia of conflicts of interest, DeSantis seems to violate three. "Campaigning," "close relationships," and "work on the behalf of a client."
While his user profile now reads "I created this profile to submit edits and post edit requests to his and related articles while being fully open about my affiliation." This is a recent change. Before Gingrich geared up for a Presidential run his profile previously read "I try to make all edits conform to Wikipedia rules and guidelines."
Update: Joe DeSantis emails "I stopped making direct edits in May 2011 because I was alerted to the COI rules. 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.
Andrew Kaczynski is a political reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.
Contact Andrew Kaczynski at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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