Congress again

Politician's staff criticizes Wikipedia after being caught editing it

In a return of the congressional editing incident, the office of Minnesota Republican Gil Gutknecht was identified as having edited his article last week. When the news broke, Gutknecht's spokesman responded by criticizing Wikipedia's trustworthiness.

The latest episode was reported by the Star Tribune after the edits were called to the paper's attention by Wikipedia editor Daniel Bush. Bush was also heavily involved in the earlier Wikinews investigation of edits from Senate offices.

Gutknecht, a member of the House who represents the 1st District in southern Minnesota, had until July only a very brief article. It contained a picture and two short paragraphs of text followed by a list of his election opponents, a couple of external links, and two standard templates at the bottom. A third paragraph mentioning his comment about US troop withdrawal from Iraq was added 21 July.

What seemed to be most important to Gutknecht's office was that the article mentioned his promise, when first elected in 1994, to serve no more than 12 years. Nevertheless, Gutknecht is running for re-election this year. Edits from his office consistently removed references to this promise and replaced it with other biographical information. A similar broken term limits pledge was also at issue in the case of Massachusetts Democrat Marty Meehan, the first Congressman to have his office implicated in editing his own article.

The initial edits from Gutknecht's office seem to have been under the account User:Gutknecht01 (contribs) on 24 July. One edit summary read, "Edited on the authority of Congressman Gil Gutknecht's Office". The new content paraphrased Gutknecht's official biography on the House website.

After this was reverted, Gutknecht's office returned on 14 August, this time simply copying and pasting his website biography to replace the article text. Rather than using an account, the edits came from the IP address that serves the House,, helping to confirm the connection. This was reverted as a "copyvio", then restored with the edit summary, "This is the official biography of Congressman Gutkencht [sic]". John Broughton then reverted this with the comment, "You're posting from an IP address of the U.S. House of Representatives, and both your additions and deletions are highly POV. Please go away." Finally, the IP address was blocked for two weeks by Kungfuadam, but this was later reversed by Mindspillage with the observation that it was an "excessive block for an IP shared by hundreds of people".

Reached for comment by the Star Tribune, Gutknecht's office did not deny making the edits. However, spokesman John Yarian decided to criticize Wikipedia instead: "This is the same source that called former Assistant Attorney General John Seigenthaler a murderer in his official Wikipedia entry ... I would encourage people to find a more trustworthy place to do their research." (Note: Seigenthaler is actually a journalist by profession and not a lawyer. He was an administrative assistant to Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, which is not the same as an Assistant Attorney General.) Meanwhile, the article has been significantly expanded with additional information, while still retaining the reference to Gutknecht's term limits promise.

+ Add a comment

Discuss this story

These comments are automatically transcluded from this article's talk page. To follow comments, add the page to your watchlist. If your comment has not appeared here, you can try purging the cache.
I'm not sure wether this should go here, or at the pump but oh well.

This is about comments Gutknecht's spokesperson made. I felt the need to e-mail him and defend Wikipedia.

"This is addressed to spokesperson John Yarian regarding his recent comments about the web-resource Wikipedia. The audacity you showed by attacking Wikipedia when it was YOUR own office which abused it's open policies appall and disgust me. Wikipedia has been a shining beacon of hope for humanity: an open portal where anyone can come to learn and share knowledge. If politics could work with this amount of trust, speed, and accuracy we wouldn't have political brown-nosers like you. Feel free to message me at any time. I would love to hear your response."

Tehe, I'm giddier than a schoolgirl on prom night.Hot.pork 08:02, 24 August 2006 (UTC)[reply]


The Signpost · written by many · served by Sinepost V0.9 · 🄯 CC-BY-SA 4.0