New Republic Fires Writer Over `Hoax'
By Howard Kurtz
The New Republic has fired an associate editor, Stephen Glass, for fabricating characters and situations in several of his articles.
Editor Charles Lane said yesterday that he dismissed Glass on Friday, hours after confirming that Glass had invented both a teenage computer hacker and the company whose security he supposedly penetrated. Lane called the entire article "a hoax."
"Steve has admitted to making up certain parts of it," Lane said, "and I myself, based on an investigation of the facts, have determined to a moral certainty that the entire article is made up."
The piece in last week's issue, titled "Hack Heaven," begins: "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-Man comic [book] number one. I want a lifetime subscription to Playboy, and throw in Penthouse. Show me the money! Show me the money!' "
The article says executives from Jukt Micronics went to Restil's Bethesda home to hire him after he broke into its database and posted every employee's salary on its Web site, along with pictures of naked women. Restil's mother is quoted, his agent is mentioned, and a man named Jim Ghort of the Center for Interstate Online Investigations is quoted.
All fictitious, Lane says.
Glass, 25, is an up-and-coming magazine writer who has freelance contracts with GQ, Rolling Stone, Harper's and George magazine, according to Lane. A former staffer for the Heritage Foundation, he started as an intern at the New Republic in the fall of 1995 and was later promoted to associate editor. Among his freelance credits is a 1995 article in The Washington Post's Outlook section.
Glass was at his parents' Chicago area home yesterday and did not return a telephone message left there.
Colleagues say Glass was well liked around the office but that he may have become overextended by accepting so much outside work while also attending Georgetown Law School at night. Among other things, he has profiled Vernon Jordan for George, written about a controversial drug program for Rolling Stone and infiltrated a psychic phone network for Harper's.
"He was very charming, and he obviously fooled a lot of people," said one New Republic staffer who asked not to be named. "Everyone is shocked. I'm as befuddled as anybody."
Lane said he began his investigation after receiving inquiries from a reporter for the Web site of Forbes magazine.
When he confronted Glass, Lane said, "he gave me reasons that were unsatisfactory." Glass also acknowledged problems or embellishments in some of his earlier articles, Lane said.
These pieces have involved a bond trading company said to have set up a shrine to Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan; a memorabilia convention where a condom named after Monica Lewinsky was said to have been sold; a meeting of an anti-Clinton group called the Commission to Restore the Presidency to Greatness, and a New York company that supposedly places adventure-seekers in the remote wilderness for $25,000 a year.
A cursory review of these articles raised "disturbing" questions about their accuracy, Lane said. "There are a number of names we can't substantiate that he claims to have talked to," he said.
This is the second time in recent years the New Republic has had problems with a young reporter. In 1995, the magazine apologized for the second of two instances of plagiarism by staff writer Ruth Shalit.
Asked if the magazine should have detected problems in Glass's work earlier, Lane said: "It's a perfectly fair question. I expect to be asked that repeatedly; I've asked it of myself. I've been editor for eight months. As soon as I received an indication of a problem of this dimension, I moved on it. It took me about 24 hours to grasp that something worth firing him over had taken place." Lane acted after consulting with owner and Editor-in-Chief Martin Peretz.
Will the episode damage the New Republic's reputation? "The only thing we can do is what we're doing now, which is move to get rid of this guy and come clean about it," Lane said. He called the firing "the hardest day of my career in journalism."
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