CNN is reporting that 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. And Gingrich is defending the actions of his communications director.
Wikipedia records show DeSantis has made over 60 adjustments to entries to biographical page on Gingrich, the page on his wife, Callista, and a separate page on one of their books, Rediscovering Good in America.
Last week Wiki editor, Tvoz, responded to DeSantis in a public Wiki forum, "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."
Any professional marketing or public relations individual who has ever attempted to edit or create a Wiki page knows how difficult it can be to do when the individual has a known relationship or bias to the subject. 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."
However, the site does allow for professional representation to edit the "non-controversial edits" (usually to clarify, or provide more accurate documentation).
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.
What sort of things was he attempting to remove from the Wiki pages?
"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.
DeSantis' edits, which go back as far as October of 2008, included rewriting, removing, and editing lines, including several edits to references of Gingrich's marriages. (Anyone is capable of logging into Wikipedia, and looking at the edits on any page. Who made the changes, what changes were made, and when they made them is very visible and very easily accessible.)
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.
"Newt came up there with his yellow legal pad, and he had a list of things on how the divorce was going to be handled. He wanted her to sign it. She was still recovering from surgery," the article read.
When a $500,000 credit line held by Gingrich at luxury retailer Tiffany's made headlines, references to the account were added on Wikipedia, and DeSantis edited those references, including material supportive of his client published in news articles.
In April 2009, he deleted several lines on a House ethics investigation of Gingrich, replacing them with material more favorable to the former House speaker.
He also adjusted language describing Gingrich's position on waterboarding and climate change.
The website BuzzFeed recently noted 23 edits DeSantis made to Callista Gingrich's Wikipedia biography.