Stephen Glass

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For the Scottish footballer, see Stephen Glass (footballer).
Stephen Glass
Born Stephen Randall Glass
(1972-09-15) September 15, 1972 (age 44)
United States
Alma mater University of Pennsylvania
Georgetown University Law Center
Occupation Paralegal, writer

Stephen Randall Glass (born September 15, 1972)[1] is an American paralegal and former journalist. In 1998, it was revealed that many of his published articles were fabrications. Over a three-year period as a young rising star at The New Republic, Glass invented quotations, sources, and events in articles he wrote for that magazine and others. Most of Glass's articles were of the entertaining and humorous type; some were based entirely on fictional events. Several seemed to endorse negative stereotypes about ethnic and political groups.

Glass holds a degree in law from Georgetown University Law Center, and, since 2004, has worked as a paralegal at a Beverly Hills law firm.[2][3] While Glass has passed the bar exam in both New York and California, he withdrew his application to become a licensed attorney in New York in 2004 after he was advised it would not succeed, and in 2014 the California Supreme Court unanimously ruled that he should not be licensed in that state.[4]

His career at The New Republic was dramatized in the 2003 film Shattered Glass, in which Glass was portrayed by Hayden Christensen. Glass fictionalized his own story in The Fabulist, a 2003 novel whose protagonist is named "Stephen Aaron Glass".[5]

Early life and education[edit]

Glass grew up in a Jewish family in the northern Chicago suburb of Highland Park.[6] He attended the University of Pennsylvania from 1990 to 1994, where he was an executive editor of the student newspaper, The Daily Pennsylvanian, and was a classmate of controversial journalist Sabrina Erdely, who would later write about knowing him.[7] His tenure coincided with a spectacular incident that befell the newspaper: an entire edition was stolen by students who objected to the newspaper's coverage and the comments of its columnists.[8] In addition, the contentious Water buffalo incident occurred during his tenure, bringing national attention to Penn campus events.

After his 1994 graduation from Penn, Glass joined The New Republic in 1995 as an editorial assistant.[9] Soon thereafter, the 23-year-old Glass advanced to writing features. While employed full-time at TNR, he also wrote for other magazines including Policy Review, George, Rolling Stone, and Harper's and contributed to Public Radio International's (PRI) weekly hour-long program This American Life, hosted by Ira Glass (no relation to Stephen).

The New Republic affair[edit]

Although Glass enjoyed loyalty from The New Republic staff, his reporting repeatedly drew outraged rebuttals from the subjects of his articles, eroding his credibility and leading to private skepticism from insiders at the magazine. After the scandal broke, the magazine's majority owner and editor-in-chief, Martin Peretz, admitted that his wife had told him that she did not find Glass's stories credible and had stopped reading them.[10] In the end, Glass's final editor at the magazine, Charles Lane, was instrumental in exposing Glass's fraudulent writing in 1998.

Warning signs[edit]

In December 1996, the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) was the target of a hostile article by Glass called "Hazardous to Your Mental Health". CSPI wrote a letter to the editor and issued a press release pointing out numerous inaccuracies and distortions, and even hinted at possible plagiarism.[11] 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.".[12]

In May 1997, Joe Galli of the College Republican National Committee wrote a letter to the editor accusing Glass of fabrications in "Spring Breakdown", his lurid tale of drinking and debauchery at the 1997 Conservative Political Action Conference. 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.[12] The New Republic, however, stood by and defended him. Editor Michael Kelly wrote an angry letter to CSPI calling them liars and demanding the organization apologize to Glass.[6]

Scandal breaks[edit]

When Glass was finally caught in May 1998, he had risen to become an associate editor at The New Republic. The story that triggered his downfall was "Hack Heaven," which appeared in the issue dated May 18, 1998. It concerned a supposed 15-year-old hacker who intruded into the computer network of a company called "Jukt Micronics," which allegedly then hired the teen as an information security consultant.

As with several of Glass's previous stories, "Hack Heaven" depicted events that were almost cinematically vivid and told in present tense, 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] number one. 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."[13]

Fake Jukt Micronics website concocted by Glass

Upon the publication of "Hack Heaven," Adam Penenberg, a reporter with Forbes magazine's digital division, undertook the task of verifying it, initially to find out how The New Republic had managed to scoop Forbes. Penenberg immediately became suspicious when he was unable to find a single search engine result for "Jukt Micronics." Further contact with several government agencies solidified his suspicions that Glass had fabricated the entire story. More suspicious was the fact that "Jukt Micronics" only had one phone line, and its website turned out to be an amateur AOL webpage, which seemed very odd for a supposedly big-time software company.[14][15]

When Penenberg and Forbes confronted The New Republic, Glass claimed to have been duped by Restil. Lane had Glass travel with him to Bethesda, Maryland, to visit the Hyatt hotel where Restil had supposedly met with the Jukt Micronics executives and the room where the conference had supposedly been held. Despite Glass's assurances, Lane discovered that on the day of the alleged meeting the conference room had been closed.[6] Afterwards, Lane dialed a Palo Alto number for Jukt Micronics provided by Glass and eventually had a phone conversation with a man who identified himself as George Sims, a Jukt executive. This was the first piece of evidence substantiating Glass's article. However, Lane learned from a passing remark by another of his editors that Glass had a brother at Stanford University, located adjacent to Palo Alto. Realizing that Glass's brother was posing as Sims, Lane immediately fired Glass.[16]

Lane offered this explanation for the scandal:

We extended normal human trust to someone who basically lacked a conscience... We busy, friendly folks, were no match for such a willful deceiver... We thought Glass was interested in our personal lives, or our struggles with work, and we thought it was because he cared. Actually, it was all about sizing us up and searching for vulnerabilities. What we saw as concern was actually contempt.


The New Republic subsequently determined that at least 27 of the 41 articles Glass wrote for the magazine contained fabricated material. Some of the 27, such as "Don't You D.A.R.E.", contained real reporting interwoven with fabricated quotations and incidents,[18] while others, including "Hack Heaven", were completely made up.[9] In the process of creating the "Hack Heaven" article, Glass had gone to especially elaborate lengths to thwart the discovery of his deception by TNR's fact checkers: creating a shill website[19] and voice mail account for Jukt Micronics; fabricating notes of story gathering;[20] having fake business cards printed; and even composing editions of a fake computer hacker community newsletter.[9]

As for the balance of the 41 stories, Lane, in an interview given for the 2005 DVD edition of Shattered Glass, said, "In fact, I'd bet lots of the stuff in those other 14 is fake too. ... It's not like we're vouching for those 14, that they're true. They're probably not either." Rolling Stone, George, and Harper's also re-examined his contributions. Rolling Stone and Harper's found the material generally accurate yet maintained they had no way of verifying information because Glass had cited anonymous sources. George discovered that at least three of the stories Glass wrote for it contained fabrications.[21] Specifically, Glass fabricated quotations in a profile piece and apologized to the article's subject, Vernon Jordan, an adviser to then-President Bill Clinton. A court filing for Glass's application to the California bar gave an updated count on his journalism career: 36 of his stories at The New Republic were said to be fabricated in part or in whole, along with three articles for George, two articles for Rolling Stone, and one for Policy Review.[21]

Later work[edit]

After journalism, Glass earned a law degree, at Georgetown University Law Center. He then passed the New York State bar examination in 2000, but the Committee of Bar Examiners refused to certify him on its moral fitness test, citing ethics concerns related to his plagiarism.[3] He later abandoned his efforts to be admitted to the bar in New York.[22]

In 2003, Glass published a so-called "biographical novel", The Fabulist.[23] Glass sat for an interview with the weekly news program 60 Minutes timed to coincide with the release of his book. The New Republic's literary editor, Leon Wieseltier, complained, "The creep is doing it again. 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."[23] One reviewer 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."[24]

Also in 2003, Glass briefly returned to journalism, writing an article about Canadian marijuana laws for Rolling Stone.[25] On November 7, 2003, Glass participated in a panel discussion on journalistic ethics at George Washington University, along with the editor who had hired him at The New Republic, Andrew Sullivan, who accused Glass of being a "serial liar" who was using "contrition as a career move."[26]

It was very painful for me. It was like being on a guided tour of the moments of my life I am most ashamed of.

Stephen Glass, reacting to Shattered Glass[27]

The feature film about the scandal, Shattered Glass, was released in October 2003 and depicted a stylized view of Glass's rise and fall at The New Republic. It was directed by Billy Ray, and starred Hayden Christensen as Glass, Peter Sarsgaard as Charles Lane, and Hank Azaria as Michael Kelly. The film, appearing shortly after The New York Times suffered a similar plagiarism scandal with the discovery of Jayson Blair's fabrications, occasioned critiques of the journalism industry itself by nationally prominent journalists such as Frank Rich and Mark Bowden.[28]

Glass was out of the public eye for several years following the release of his novel and Ray's film. In 2007, he was performing with a Los Angeles comedy troupe known as Un-Cabaret,[29] and Ray told Vanity Fair that Glass was employed at a law firm, apparently as a paralegal.[30]

In 2015, Glass again made the news after reportedly sending Harper's Magazine a check for $10,000 – what he was paid for the false articles – writing in the attached letter that he wanted "to make right that part of my many transgressions...I recognize that repaying Harper’s will not remedy my wrongdoing, make us even, or undo what I did wrong. That said, I did not deserve the money that Harper’s paid me and it should be returned.”[31]

Unsuccessful California bar application[edit]

Glass later applied to join the State Bar of California.[32] In 2009, the Committee of Bar Examiners again refused to certify him, finding that he did not satisfy California's moral fitness test because of his history of journalistic deception.[3] Insisting that he had reformed, Glass then petitioned the State Bar Court's hearing department, which found that Glass possessed the necessary "good moral character" to be admitted as an attorney.[3][21]

The Committee of Bar Examiners sought review in the State Bar's Review Department and filed a Writ of Review, thereby petitioning the California Supreme Court to review the decision.[3] On November 16, 2011, the Supreme Court granted the petition, the first time in 11 years the court has granted review in a moral character case.[3] On January 3, 2012, Glass's attorneys filed papers with the Court arguing that his behavior has been irreproachable for more than 13 years and this is proof that he has reformed.[33]

On November 6, 2013, the California Supreme Court heard arguments in Glass's case and ruled unanimously against him in an opinion issued January 27, 2014. The lengthy opinion describes in minute detail the applicant's history, record, the bar's applicable standard of review, the appeal, and its own analysis of how Glass failed to satisfy the court's standards, concluding "On this record, he has not sustained his heavy burden of demonstrating rehabilitation and fitness for the practice of law."[4] Based on this decision, Glass will not be allowed to practice law in the State of California.[34]

Published novels[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ U.S. birth records
  2. ^ "S.C. Will Decide if 'Fabulist' Stephen Glass Is Morally Fit for Law Practice". November 21, 2011. Retrieved December 29, 2011. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f Cheryl Miller (November 17, 2011). "Justices to Decide if Lying Journalist Fit to Practice Law". (subscription required). Retrieved December 29, 2011. 
  4. ^ a b "In Re Glass" (PDF). Supreme Court of California. January 27, 2014. 
  5. ^ Stephen Glass (2003). The Fabulist. Simon & Schuster. p. 234. ISBN 0-7432-2712-3. 
  6. ^ a b c H. G. Bissinger (September 1998). "Shattered Glass". Vanity Fair. 
  7. ^ Erdeley, Sabrina. "Reflections on a Shattered Glass". Pennsylvania Gazette. University of Pennsylvania. Retrieved 5 December 2015. 
  8. ^ Samuel Hughes (November–December 1998). "Through a Glass Darkly". Pennsylvania Gazette. University of Pennsylvania. 
  9. ^ a b c Rebecca Leung (August 17, 2003). "Stephen Glass: I lied for self-esteem". 60 Minutes. CBS News. 
  10. ^ David Skinner (October 31, 2003). "Picking Up the Pieces". Weekly Standard. 
  11. ^ "Letter to the editor of The New Republic" (Press release). Center for Science in the Public Interest. January 8, 1997. 
  12. ^ a b Jonathan Last (October 31, 2003). "Stopping Stephen Glass". The Weekly Standard. 
  13. ^ Stephen Glass (May 18, 1998). "Washington Scene: Hack Heaven". 'The New Republic'. 
  14. ^ Adam Penenberg (May 11, 1998). "Lies, damn lies, and fiction". Forbes. 
  15. ^ "See also" the (parenthetical) remark that "(I'm the one who outed the serial fabulist from The New Republic.)", which can be found as part of this web page.
  16. ^ "Former Editor of 'The New Republic' Charles Lane". Fresh Air. NPR. November 17, 2003. 
  17. ^ Jim Romenesko (May 3, 2004). "Sussing out a charming newsroom sociopath isn't so easy". Poynter Institute. 
  18. ^ Stephen Glass (January 25, 1999). "Letter to D.A.R.E. from Stephen Glass". National Families in Action. 
  19. ^ "Fake "Jukt Micronics" page". Archived from the original on December 23, 2003. 
  20. ^ Hanna Rosin (November 10, 2014). "Hello, My Name Is Stephen Glass, and I'm Sorry". 'The New Republic. 
  21. ^ a b c "Trust me, an infamous serial liar says". CNN. December 17, 2011. 
  22. ^ "Disgraced ex-journalist fights for CA law license". Associated Press. December 27, 2011. Retrieved January 27, 2015. 
  23. ^ a b David D. Kirkpatrick (May 7, 2003). "A History Of Lying Recounted As Fiction". The New York Times. 
  24. ^ Adam Begley (May 18, 2003). "Disgraced journalist's 'novel' is Janet Malcolm for Dummies". New York Observer. 
  25. ^ Stephen Glass (September 4, 2003). "Canada's Pot Revolution". Rolling Stone. 
  26. ^ Jack Shafer (November 7, 2003). "Half a Glass: The incomplete contrition of serial liar Stephen Glass". Slate. 
  27. ^ David Carr (October 19, 2003). "FILM: Authors of Their Own Demise; The Real Star of Stephen Glass's Movie". The New York Times. Archived from the original on November 28, 2010. 
  28. ^ Howard Good (2007). "2". Journalism Ethics Goes to the Movies. Rowman & Littlefield. ISBN 978-0742554283. 
  29. ^ "Un-Cabaret Talent". Archived from the original on October 30, 2007. Retrieved January 28, 2015. 
  30. ^ "Shattered Glass". Vanity Fair. October 2007. 
  31. ^ Ravi Somaiya (October 16, 2015). "Stephen Glass Repays Harper's $10,000 for His Discredited Work". The New York Times. 
  32. ^ Stephen Rodrick (January 24, 2011). "Martin Peretz Is Not Sorry About Anything". The New York Times. 
  33. ^ Bob Egelko (January 4, 2012). "Disgraced journalist Stephen Glass makes his case". San Francisco Chronicle. 
  34. ^ Maura Dolan (January 28, 2014). "Disgraced journalist Stephen Glass unlikely to ever be lawyer". LA Times. Retrieved January 28, 2014. 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

Many of the articles that Glass wrote for The New Republic are no longer available online. Below are links to some of those articles which Glass is suspected of fabricating in part or in whole: