Consulting firm scrubs Wiki page of Biden’s COVID-19 czar: report

A scrubbing of Wikipedia is not uncommon for candidates for high-profile posts

The Wikipedia page for President-elect Joe Biden’s new COVID-19 czar Jeff Zients has been scrubbed of material that could portray him as not progressive enough, Politico first reported. 

Zients, a business and management executive, was tapped Thursday to serve as the White House’s COVID-19 coordinator. Zients will be tasked with overseeing the rollout of the vaccine and mobilizing economic aid, among other priorities. 

Under President Obama, Zients served as director of the National Economic Council and acting director of the Office of Management and Budget. 

Democratic consulting firm Saguaro Strategies scrubbed the page over the summer and fall as Zients’ profile rose after he joined the Biden transition team. The firm made the changes using the name “Saguarostrat,” with the intent to clean up anything that could be politically damaging. A Saguaro Strategies staffer confirmed to Politico that the Wikipedia account was linked to the firm. After Politico reached out, the username was changed to Cactus78910.

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One chief executive on former President Obama’s jobs council remarked that he thought Zients, then a top Obama aide, was a Republican, his Wiki page used to read. The section has been deleted. 

Politico reports that one section -- where Zients spoke highly of the management consulting firm Bain -- was removed but as of this writing it has returned. Zients reportedly "fell in love with Bain's culture, teamwork … and analytical rigor,” the section reads. 

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The firm also added that Zients left Facebook over  “over differences with company leadership over governance and its policies around political discourse.” Zients has never said that publicly.

At the top of the section about Zients’ role advocating for the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which has seen left-wing opposition, the firm added Zients’ argument that it was “the most progressive trade agreement there’s ever been.” 

As of this writing, that section has been removed.

Zients’ promotion of the TPP quotes him as saying:  "[t]hink of TPP as tax cuts … it cuts tariffs and sweeps away barriers to trade.”

A sudden scrubbing of someone’s Wikipedia page is not uncommon for individuals angling for a high-profile post. In June, Vice President-elect Kamala Harris’ Wikipedia page was scrubbed more than any other vice presidential contender and the majority of edits were made by a single person, The Intercept reported. 

WestExec Advisors removed mention of its China-related work from its website just before Biden became the nominee.  Several of Biden’s cabinet picks have worked for the firm, including its co-founder, Anthony Blinken, who is the nominee for secretary of state, and a former WestExec principal, Avril Haines, who is the nominee for director of national intelligence.

Web archives show that as recently as late July, the firm was touting its success in helping U.S. research universities accept donations from China, expand foreign research collaboration, and welcome foreign students in key STEM programs while remaining a “trusted partner for (Department of Defense) -sponsored research grants.”

In early August, the firm said it had helped a leading American pharmaceutical company and a multibillion-dollar American technology company gain market access to China.

Both references were removed in early August