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Jim Wilkinson
Born James Richard Wilkinson
Alma mater University of Texas at Arlington (B.S.)
Johns Hopkins University (M.S.)
Occupation Executive Vice President, Communications of PepsiCo

James Richard Wilkinson was the Chief of Staff to Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson in the George W. Bush administration. He had previously served in the White House as Deputy Communications Director and as an aide to then National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, and moved to the US State Department on her promotion to Secretary of State. Overall, Wilkinson was a "well-traveled utility man for the Bush administration's PR team".[1]

Wilkinson left politics after the global financial crisis, and now works in public relations. He served The Brunswick Group as a Managing Partner from January 2009 to April 2012, when he joined PepsiCo as Executive Vice President of Communications.

In 2011, he was portrayed in the HBO film Too Big to Fail by actor Topher Grace.

Jim Wilkinson currently serves as Chairman and CEO of TrailRunner International,[2][3] as well as the Chairman of Mountain Lion Aviation, which is an airline based in Tahoe.[4] He previously served as the Senior Vice President and Head of International Corporate Affairs for the Alibaba Group.[5]

Education and career

Wilkinson was born in 1970 and grew up[6] and went to high school in the small town of Tenaha in East Texas, and initially planned to be an undertaker.[7] Wilkinson received his BBA in finance from UT Arlington in 1993 and his M.S. in government from Johns Hopkins University.[8] He started working for Republican Congressman Dick Armey in 1992[7]—staying until 2000[9]—and worked as the spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee.[10]

Wilkinson, a Republican, began his government career under former Texas congressman Dick Armey. In 1999, during George W. Bush's campaign for President, Wilkinson helped sell the idea that Al Gore claimed to have "invented the Internet".[7][11][12]

In 2000, Wilkinson traveled to Florida to support Republican activists during the recount.[7][13] Wilkinson joined the Bush Administration and worked as "White House deputy director of communications and spokesman for Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's transition team".[1]

Wilkinson served as an officer in the United States Navy Reserves.[9] His mentors have included former R.N.C. chairman Ed Gillespie[7] and former G.W. Bush adviser Karen Hughes.[13] As Karl Rove's choice,[14] Wilkinson left the Bush Administration to work as the communications director for the 2004 Republican National Convention before returning to the White House under Rice.[1]

Wilkinson likes to stay behind the scenes.[7][8] When asked personal questions by The New York Observer Wilkinson declined answering, saying "Staff should be seen and not heard. And biographical pieces amount to nothing more than climbing out on the seat of a dunking booth and handing out baseballs all over town."[7] Wilkinson, who has run marathons,[8] has been described as hyperactive and media-savvy.[15]

As of 2010, Wilkinson was working as Managing Partner of Brunswick Group LLP, a public relations firm.[16]

Jim Wilkinson was listed on PRWeek's list of the most powerful 50 communicators in the world.[17]

He played a key role in Alibaba's historic IPO.[5]

Afghanistan, Iraq, and CENTCOM

Wilkinson was head of the "war room", or Coalition Information Center for the Afghanistan War.[18] He highlighted efforts to improve living conditions for Afghan women.[18] In public relations preparations for 2003 invasion of Iraq, Wilkinson was part of the White House Iraq Group under Karl Rove and Scooter Libby.[19] The goal of the group was to "get the country on the page that the White House wanted everybody to believe: that Iraq, with its weapons of mass destruction, was an imminent threat to the United States".[19]

For the Iraq war, Wilkinson was the chief spokesman for Gen. Tommy Franks under CENTCOM in Doha.[20] Many reporters were unhappy in Doha, and the atmosphere was tense; Ben Smith of The New York Observer mentioned three theories on the source of the tension: that stationed reporters were jealous of their embedded colleagues, that Wilkinson helped execute an operation that controlled the information well, or that Wilkinson was inept.[7] Ron Suskind, writing in The Washington Post, called Wilkinson the "spinmeister for the Iraq war".[21] When Wilkinson faced questions from reporters he found lacking in support for the Iraq War, he would rebuke them.[22]

Jessica Lynch

In original editions of the book Where Men Win Glory: The Odyssey of Pat Tillman, Wilkinson was described as a "master propagandist".[23] The book stated that Wilkinson concocted details regarding the Jessica Lynch story[24] and "arranged to give the Washington Post exclusive access to classified intelligence that was the basis for the now-discredited 'She Was Fighting to the Death' story that ran on the front page of the newspaper" on April 3, 2003.[25] When interviewed by the United States House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, Wilkinson said that he did not know the identity of the "U.S. officials" cited in the April 3 story.[26] Wilkinson could not explain why erroneous news reports emerged about Private Lynch's capture and rescue.[26]

However, Jon Krakauer has issued a correction, and in the new editions of the book (on page 209), Krakauer writes, "Earlier editions of this book stated that it was Jim Wilkinson "who arranged to give the Washington Post exclusive access" to this leaked intelligence. This is incorrect. Wilkinson had nothing to do with the leak." (Source: Where Men Win Glory: The Odyssey of Pat Tillman, Page 209.) However, it is extremely difficult to find editions of the paperback issue of the book with this correction. Barnes & Noble bookstores copies of the paperback do not contain this correction.

Krakauer's correction was picked up by blogging community. "Krakauer quietly retreated from his unattributed charges about Wilkinson, removing the unflattering passages from a recent paperback edition of Where Men Win Glory. That edition also contains a footnote saying, "Earlier editions of this book stated that it was Jim Wilkinson 'who arranged to give the Washington Post exclusive access' to this leaked intelligence [about Jessica Lynch]. This is incorrect. Wilkinson had nothing to do with the leak." (Source: Why Washington Post should reveal sources on bogus Jessica Lynch tale, W. Joseph Campbell's blog Media Myth Alert,

Salon retreated from its reporting on Wilkinson. "Salon's Alex Pareene said by email yesterday that he had relied on Krakauer's book in offering the claim about Wilkinson. Pareene also said, "I was unaware of Krakauer's correction, and its worth an explanatory note. He later appended a footnote to his commentary, citing Krakauer's rollback and stating that Wilkinson 'apparently isn't responsible for falsifying [Lynch's] actions or leaking that false story to the press." (Source:

The congressional report, titled Misleading Information from the Battlefield: The Tillman and Lynch Episodes states that, "As the Committee investigated the Tillman and Lynch cases, it encountered a striking lack of recollection. In Private Lynch's case, Jim Wilkinson...told the Committee he did not know where the false information originated or who disseminated it."[27]

During media coverage of Lynch, Wilkinson said, "America does not leave its heroes behind".[7] Tommy Franks, in his book American Soldier, writes that Wilkinson was too eager to pass along the night-vision video of Lynch to the media.[28]

NSC, Richard Clarke, Condoleezza Rice, and Treasury

Wilkinson was the spokesman for the United States National Security Council.[29] In an op-ed titled "Smear Without Fear", Paul Krugman of The New York Times attributed to Wilkinson a smear on Richard Clarke broadcast on CNN, writing that,

"Wilkinson seems to have questioned Mr. Clarke's sanity, saying: 'He sits back and visualizes chanting by bin Laden, and bin Laden has a mystical mind control over U.S. officials. This is sort of "X-Files" stuff.' Really? On Page 246 of "Against All Enemies," Mr. Clarke bemoans the way the invasion of Iraq, in his view, played right into the hands of Al Qaeda: 'Bush handed that enemy precisely what it wanted and needed.. .. It was as if Usama bin Laden, hidden in some high mountain redoubt, were engaging in long-range mind control of George Bush.' That's not '"X-Files" stuff': it's a literary device, meant to emphasize just how ill conceived our policy is. Mr. Blitzer should be telling Mr. Wilkinson to apologize.[29]"

As a senior aide to then Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Wilkinson was credited with an image-making strategy that elevated Rice to "rock star status".[30] Wilkinson employed specific strategies to counter notions Rice was cold and did not care about diplomacy.[15] While Chief of Staff in the U.S. Treasury department, Wilkinson worked under Henry Paulson.[31] A Wilkinson September 2008 email regarding the government's approach to Lehman Brothers appeared in a 2010 Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission document. Wilkinson emailed "can't stomach us bailing out lehman. Will be horrible in the press."[32] Wilkinson declined to comment on his emails.[33]

Political views

Wilkinson, through his Mountain Lion Aviation airline, sponsored NCAA women's athletics.[4][34]

In other media

Wilkinson was portrayed in the May 23, 2011 HBO film Too Big to Fail by actor Topher Grace.[35]



  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Douglas Quenqua (December 2003). "Wilkinson returns to White House in new job under Rice". U.S. ed.. p. 3. 
  2. Spychalsky, Alexandra (14 October 2016). "All Trails Lead to Truckee" (in en). Moonshine Ink. Retrieved 14 March 2019. "The team at TrailRunner International, with CEO Jim Wilkinson sitting in blue on the right." 
  3. "Up and comers: Agencies to look out for". PRWeek. 23 April 2018. Retrieved 14 March 2019. 
  4. 4.0 4.1 "University of Nevada and Mountain Lion Aviation Announce Sponsorship" (in en). KTVN. 29 October 2018. Retrieved 14 March 2019. "“There can be no doubt that women's sports simply do not get the same financial resources as men's sports,” said Mountain Lion Aviation Chairman, Jim Wilkinson." 
  5. 5.0 5.1 Flannery, Russell (12 May 2014). "Alibaba Names Former PepsiCo, Brunswick Executive As Int'l Corporate Affairs Chief" (in en). Forbes. Retrieved 14 March 2019. "Jim Wilkinson will be based in the San Francisco area and will be charged with building and leading Alibaba Group's international corporate affairs team, Alibaba said in a statement." 
  6. UT Arlington Magazine Retrieved 2018-04-16.
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 7.4 7.5 7.6 7.7 7.8 Ben Smith (27 October 2003). "Iraq Media Guy Rebuilds Qatar At the Garden". p. 1. 
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 Danny Woodward (Fall 2006). "Political Savvy". UT Arlington. 
  9. 9.0 9.1 "Jim Wilkinson: Former Deputy National Security Advisor for Communications". The White House of President George W. Bush. Retrieved 8 September 2010. 
  10. Cathy Newman (13 August 2000). "Democrats to Speak Out at 'Shadow' Convention". p. A.08. 
  11. Harvey Rice (21 March 2004). "A war story I wish I'd written". 
  12. Catalina Camia (30 May 1999). "Armey takes lead in criticizing Gore's potential campaign themes". p. 8.A. "(Abstract) "Armey believes we should let the sun shine on what Gore stands for," Wilkinson later said. "As long as Gore comes up with nutty ideas, we'll come up with sharp responses." The unofficial "truth squad" began in earnest when an Armey aide heard Gore say in a CNN interview that he "took the initiative in creating the Internet."" 
  13. 13.0 13.1 Massing, p. 5.
  14. Rove's Man Lands in New York Salon. October 23, 2003.
  15. 15.0 15.1 Glenn Kessler (3 September 2007). "Transformed By Her Bond With Bush; Rice's Loyalty Brings Power and Pitfalls". p. A.1. 
  16. "Brunswick Group LLP". BusinessWeek. Retrieved 17 December 2009. 
  17. "Power List 2015: The Power 50" (in en). PRWeek. 1 July 2015. Retrieved 14 March 2019. 
  18. 18.0 18.1 Elizabeth Becker, James Dao (20 February 2002). "A NATION CHALLENGED: HEARTS AND MINDS; Bush Will Keep the Wartime Operation Promoting America". 
  19. 19.0 19.1 Ron Elving, Madeleine Bland (24 October 2005). "Politics with Ron Elving: Plame Indictments, Iraq War". Retrieved 3 September 2010.  Listen
  20. "Interview: Jim Wilkinson, Chief Spokesman, Central Command". BBC Breakfast with Frost. 6 April 2003. Retrieved 3 September 2010. 
  21. Ron Suskind (19 November 2006). "Send in the Subpoenas". p. B.1. 
  22. Massing, p. 7.
  23. Krakauer, p. 349
  24. Dan Neil (11 September 2009). "Book Review: 'Where Men Win Glory: The Odyssey of Pat Tillman' by Jon Krakauer".,0,628992.story. Retrieved 4 September 2010. 
  25. Krakauer, p. 210.
  26. 26.0 26.1 Misleading Information from the Battlefield. p. 47.
  27. Misleading Information from the Battlefield. p. 49.
  28. Tommy Franks, Malcolm McConnell (2004). American Soldier. New York, NY: HarperCollins. p. 801. ISBN 0-06-075714-0. "jim wilkinson was eager." 
  29. 29.0 29.1 Paul Krugman (2 April 2004). "Smear Without Fear". 
  30. Joel Brinkley (5 December 2005). "Diplomatic Memo; The Man Behind the Secretary of State's Rock Star Image". 
  31. Andrews, Edmund L. (11 July 2006). "New Treasury chief gives Bush team a global look". International Herald Tribune. 
  32. Robert J. Samuelson (13 September 2010). "Was the Great Panic of 2008 preventable?". 
  33. John D. McKinnon, Victoria McGrane (1 September 2010). "Clashing Testimony Over Lehman Bankruptcy". 
  34. Bales, Kenzie (1 November 2018). "University of Nevada announces new sponsorship for women's athletics" (in en). Nevada Sports Net. Retrieved 14 March 2019. 
  35. Gaffney, Adrienne (17 May 2011). "The Weekend William Hurt Went Snake Hunting With Hank Paulson". New York, Daily Intel blog. Retrieved 3 October 2013. 

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