(born 1972) is an American paralegal
who was previously a reporter
for The New Republic
; he was eventually fired for fabricating articles, quotations, sources and events. The story of Glass's downfall is told in the 2003 film Shattered Glass
Childhood and early life
Stephen Glass grew up in the north Chicago
suburb of Highland Park, Illinois
. He went to the University of Pennsylvania
, where he was the executive editor of The Daily Pennsylvanian
, the university's student newspaper
. While at Penn, he gained some note because of a controversy involving the theft of an entire edition of The Daily Pennsylvanian
by a discontented group of African American students who did not like the newspaper's coverage and comments by one of their columnists.
Following his graduation from the University of Pennsylvania, he joined The New Republic
as an editorial assistant in 1995. He rose quickly, writing articles for TNR
when he was only 23 years old. Glass was employed full-time at TNR,
but he also wrote occasional pieces for magazines such as Policy Review
, Rolling Stone
, and Harper's
. Glass also contributed to NPR's "This American Life" hosted by Ira Glass (no relation).
The New Republic scandal
There had been warning signs. Joe Galli of the College Republican National Committee and David Keene
of the American Conservative Union
both wrote letters to TNR
accusing Glass of fabrications in "Spring Breakdown", his lurid tale of drinking and debauchery at the 1997 Conservative Political Action Conference
. The organization Drug Abuse Resistance Education
(D.A.R.E.) accused Glass of falsehoods in his March 1997 article "Don't You D.A.R.E.". The Center for Science in the Public Interest
was the target of a hostile Glass article in December 1996 called "Hazardous to Your Mental Health", and CSPI wrote a letter to the editor and a press release pointing out inaccuracies, distortions, and possible plagiarism in Glass's article. A June 1997 article called "Peddling Poppy" about a Hofstra University
conference on George H. W. Bush
drew a letter to the editor from Hofstra reciting Glass's errors. Magazine owner Martin Peretz
later admitted that his wife told him that she found Glass's stories incredible and had stopped reading them. The New Republic
, however, continued to stand behind its star young writer. Editor Michael Kelly
fired off an angry letter to CSPI calling them liars and demanding that they apologize to Glass.
Glass was finally caught in May 1998. The story that triggered his downfall appeared in the May 181998 issue. It was called "Hack Heaven" and concerned a supposed 15 year old hacker who was reportedly hired to work for a large company as an information security consultant after breaking into their computer system and exposing its weaknesses. As with several of Stephen Glass's previous stories, "Hack Heaven" depicted events that were almost cinematic in their vividness and that were told from a first person perspective, implying that Glass was there as the action took place. The article opened as follows.
- Ian Restil, a 15 year old computer hacker who looks like an even more adolescent version of Bill Gates, is throwing a tantrum. "I want more money. I want a Miata. I want a trip to Disney World. I want X-Men comic [book] #1. I want a lifetime subscription to Playboy - and throw in Penthouse. Show me the money! Show me the money!" ...
- Across the table, executives from a California software firm called Jukt Micronics are listening and trying ever so delicately to oblige. "Excuse me, sir", one of the suits says tentatively to the pimply teenager. "Excuse me. Pardon me for interrupting you, sir. We can arrange more money for you..."
Soon after the publication of "Hack Heaven" Forbes.com reporter Adam Penenberg read the article and did his own research. He failed to find any evidence that Jukt Micronics or any of the people mentioned in the story even existed. Penenberg and Forbes confronted TNR with this and Glass claimed he had been duped. TNR editor Charles Lane, seeking confirmation for the story, asked Glass to take him to the Hyatt hotel in Bethesda, Maryland where Restil supposedly met with the Jukt Micronics executives and to the conference room next door that held the hacker conference. Glass described the details of the meeting and insisted that his story was accurate but Lane discovered that the conference room had been closed on the day Glass said the hackers had met there. Lane dialed a Palo Alto number for Jukt Micronics Glass gave him and actually found a real person who identified himself as George Sims, a Jukt executive. Lane found out from a passing remark by another TNR editor that Glass had a brother at Stanford University in Palo Alto where "Sims" called from. Lane realized Glass' brother was posing as Sims. Lane immediately fired Glass. An internal review by TNR found that Glass created a shell website and voice mail account for the company in order to deceive TNR's fact checkers. Glass also had fake business cards printed and presented fabricated notes to TNR fact checkers. He even invented a fake hacker newsletter in an effort to cover his tracks for "Hack Heaven".
TNR subsequently determined that at least 27 of 41 stories written by Glass for the magazine contained fabricated material. Some, such as "Don't You D.A.R.E.", contained fabricated quotations and incidents woven in with real reporting, while others, such as the infamous "Hack Heaven", were completely made up. Lane said, "In fact, I'd bet lots of the stuff in those other fourteen is fake too. ... It's not like we're vouching for those fourteen, that they're true. They're probably not either. Rolling Stone, George, and Harper's also reviewed his work in their respective publications. Rolling Stone and Harper's found the material generally accurate but had no way of verifying information from Glass's anonymous sources. George discovered that Glass fabricated quotations in a profile piece and apologised to the article's subject Vernon Jordan, a Clinton adviser.
In 2003 the movie Shattered Glass
directed by Billy Ray presented a stylized view of Glass's rise and fall and starred Hayden Christensen
(Stephen Glass) and Peter Sarsgaard
Stephen Glass completed his law degree at Georgetown University Law Center after being fired by TNR
, and passed the written portion of the New York state bar exam, but was not admitted to the bar
. In 2003, he published his "biographical novel" The Fabulist
. Adam Begley's review in The New York Observer of The Fabulist
commented, "The irony--we must have irony in a tale this tawdry--is that Mr. Glass is abundantly talented. He's funny and fluent and daring. In a parallel universe, I could imagine him becoming a perfectly respectable novelist--a prize-winner, perhaps, with a bit of luck." John J. Miller of National Review
magazine commented that "the publication of this book is a scandal." "The creep is doing it again," said Leon Wieseltier, literary editor of The New Republic
. "Even when it comes to reckoning with his own sins, he is still incapable of nonfiction. The careerism of his repentance is repulsively consistent with the careerism of his crimes."
"I wanted them to think I was a good journalist, a good person. I wanted them to love the story so they would love me," Glass told Steve Kroft of 60 Minutes in an interview, which was included as a special feature for the DVD edition of Shattered Glass. In 2003, Glass briefly returned to journalism, writing an article about Canadian marijuana laws for Rolling Stone.
Glass lives in Los Angeles. As of 2007, he was working as a paralegal as well as performing with a Los Angeles comedy troupe known as Un-Cabaret.
- Glass, Stephen. The Fabulist (2003). Simon and Schuster, 352 p. ISBN 0-7432-2712-3
- Very few of the articles that Glass wrote for The New Republic are still available online. Below are links to some of those articles which Glass is suspected of fabricating in part or in whole:
- "A Day on the Streets", for The Daily Pennsylvanian, June 6, 1991
- “Mrs. Colehill Thanks God For Private Social Security”, June 1997, for Policy Review magazine. PDF format.
- “Probable Claus”, published January 6 & 13, 1997
- “Don't You D.A.R.E.”, published March 3, 1997
- “Writing on the Wall”, published March 24, 1997
- "Slavery Chic", published July 14 & 21, 1997
- “The Young and the Feckless”, published Sept. 15, 1997
- “Washington Scene: Hack Heaven”, published May 18, 1998