(born 1972) is a former American journalist, known best for serial fraud in his articles, described by his former journalistic editor and mentor Michael Kelly "as a pathological liar and sociopath, who was simply addicted to the con, to the thrill of tricking people.". Over a three-year period as a young rising star at the prestigious national magazine, The New Republic (TNR), from 1995 to 1998, he fabricated quotations, sources, and even entire events in articles he wrote for that magazine and others. He was fired when his deceptions came to light. His career at TNR was dramatized in the film Shattered Glass. Glass fictionalized his own story in a 2003 novel whose protagonist is named "Stephen Aaron Glass".
The New Republic scandal
Though Glass enjoyed much loyalty amongst his staff, his reporting was repeatedly drawing outraged rebuttals from the subjects of his articles, which was beginning to erode his credibility and even led to private skepticism from insiders at The New Republic. In the end, Glass's final editor at TNR Charles Lane was instrumental in exposing Glass's fraudulent scheme. After the scandal broke, the magazine's majority owner and editor-in-chief, Martin Peretz, admitted that his wife had told him that she found Glass's stories incredible and had stopped reading them. Glass's boss, 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.
In December 1996, the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) was the target of a hostile Glass article called "Hazardous to Your Mental Health". CSPI wrote a letter to the editor and issued a press release pointing out inaccuracies, distortions, and even possible plagiarism. 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.". In May 1997, Joe Galli of the College Republican National Committee had a letter to the editor published 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. The New Republic, however, stood by and defended him. Editor Michael Kelly fired off an angry letter to CSPI calling them liars and demanding that they apologize to Glass.
“ What I do know for me is that I was not a sociopath or a psychopath. ”
—Stephen Glass, trying to explain his behavior.
Glass was finally caught in May 1998, at which time he held the title of associate editor of The New Republic. The story that triggered his downfall, in the issue dated May 18, 1998, was "Hack Heaven". It concerned a supposed 15-year-old hacker who intruded into the computer network of a company called "Jukt Micronics", which allegedly then hired him as an information security consultant.
As with several of Glass's previous stories, "Hack Heaven" depicted events that were almost cinematically vivid and 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. . . ."
Fake Jukt Micronics website concocted by Glass
Upon the publication of "Hack Heaven", Adam Penenberg, a reporter with Forbes, undertook to verify it. He found no 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 to have been duped. Glass's boss 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 to the conference room where the hacker conference had supposedly been held. Despite Glass's assurances, Lane discovered that on the day of the alleged hacker conference, the conference room had been closed. 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 found out from a passing remark by another TNR editor that Glass had a brother at Stanford University, which is in Palo Alto, the city where "Jukt Micronics" was allegedly located. Realizing that Glass's brother was posing as Sims, Lane immediately fired Glass.
TNR subsequently determined that at least 27 of 41 stories written by Glass 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, while others, including "Hack Heaven", were completely made up.In the process of creating the "Hack Heaven" article, Glass had gone to especially elaborate and assiduous lengths to thwart the discovery of his deception by TNR's fact checkers: creating a shell website and voice mail account for Jukt Micronics; fabricating notes of story gathering; having fake business cards printed; and even composing editions of a fake computer hacker community newsletter.
As for the balance of the 41 stories, Lane, in an interview given for the 2005 DVD edition of the 2003 movie Shattered Glass, 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." The magazines 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 Glass fabricated quotations in a profile piece and apologized to the article's subject, Vernon Jordan, an adviser to then-President Bill Clinton.
After being fired by The New Republic, Glass earned a Law degree, magna cum laude, at Georgetown University Law Center. He then passed the New York State bar exam. At the time, there were reports that he was awaiting the character and fitness review that each applicant must pass. Nothing further is publicly known of his quest to be admitted to practice law in the State of New York.
In 2003 Glass published a so-called "biographical novel", The Fabulist. 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." 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.
Also in 2003, Glass briefly returned to journalism, writing an article about Canadian marijuana laws for Rolling Stone. 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.".
“ 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"
In October 2003 a feature film about the TNR scandal, Shattered Glass, was released, directed by Billy Ray and starring Hayden Christensen as Glass and Peter Sarsgaard as Charles Lane. The movie, appearing shortly after The New York Times suffered a similar scandal to the one that Shattered Glass portrayed, occasioned critiques of the journalism industry itself by nationally prominent journalists such as Frank Rich and Mark Bowden. It presented a stylized view of Glass's rise and fall.
Glass has been out of the public eye since the release of his novel and Ray's film. In 2007 he was performing with a Los Angeles comedy troupe known as Un-Cabaret and was described by Billy Ray as being employed at a law firm, not necessarily as an attorney.
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