Stephen Randall Glass (born September 15, 1972) is a former journalist and is currently employed at a law firm in Beverly Hills. 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. In 2016, Glass revealed that he had repaid over $200,000 to The New Republic and other publications for his earlier fabrications.
Glass holds a Juris Doctor degree from Georgetown University Law Center and while Glass 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. Glass worked as a paralegal at a law firm for a number of years and was later promoted to Director of Special Projects and Trial Team Coordinator.
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".
Glass grew up in a Jewish family in the northern Chicago suburb of Highland Park. He graduated from the University of Pennsylvania as University Scholar, where he was an executive editor of the student newspaper, The Daily Pennsylvanian.
After his 1994 graduation from Penn, Glass joined The New Republic in 1995 as an editorial assistant. 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).
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. The magazine's majority owner and editor-in-chief, Martin Peretz, later said that his wife had told him that she did not find Glass's stories credible and had stopped reading them.
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 hinting at 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 accused 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 from Hofstra reciting errors in the story. The New Republic defended Glass; editor Michael Kelly demanded CSPI apologize to Glass.
On May 18, 1998 The New Republic published a story by Glass (by then an associate editor) entitled "Hack Heaven", purportedly telling the story of a 15-year-old hacker who had penetrated a company's computer network, then been hired by that company as a security consultant. 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."
Adam Penenberg, a reporter with Forbes magazine, became suspicious when he found zero search engine results for "Jukt Micronics", found that "Jukt Micronics" had just a single phone line, and saw that its website was extremely amateur.
Challenged, Glass claimed to have been duped by "Restil". Glass took Charles Lane to the Bethesda, Maryland hotel at which Restil had purportedly met with the Jukt executives; Lane discovered that on the day of the claimed meeting the hotel's conference room had been closed. Lane dialed a Palo Alto number provided by Glass and spoke with a man who identified himself as a Jukt executive; however, when he realized that the "executive" was actually Glass' brother, who attended Stanford University in Palo Alto, he fired Glass.
Lane later said:
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, while others, including "Hack Heaven", were completely made up. 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 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 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. 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.
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. He later abandoned his efforts to be admitted to the bar in 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."
A 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. 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.
Glass was out of the public eye for several years following the release of his novel and the film. In 2007, he was performing with a Los Angeles comedy troupe known as Un-Cabaret,, having earlier found employment at a small law firm, apparently as a paralegal.
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.”
In 2009 Glass applied to join the State Bar of California. The Committee of Bar Examiners refused to certify him, finding that he did not satisfy California's moral fitness test because of his history of journalistic deception. 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.
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. On November 16, 2011, the Supreme Court granted the petition, the first time in 11 years the court had granted review in a moral character case. On January 3, 2012, Glass's attorneys filed papers with the Court arguing that his behavior had been irreproachable for more than 13 years and this was proof that he had reformed.
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." Based on this decision, Glass was barred from practicing law in the State of California.
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: