Ed Driscoll

Shattered Glass, Then and Now

“Too many reporters have ‘Jackies’ — politicians and causes they trust uncritically no matter what,” Mollie Hemingway writes at the Federalist, with her take on what increasingly looks like Sabrina Rubin Erdely’s media fabulism in Rolling Stone magazine, and how it bears a strong resemblance to the earlier fabulism of the New Republic’s infamous Stephen Glass from the 1990s:

Stephen Glass was a journalist at The New Republic who made up stories, or significant parts of them. Three dozen of the 41 stories he wrote for The New Republic were said to be fabricated in part or in whole, along with articles for George and Rolling Stone.

I knew Stephen Glass was full of it in 1997 after I read his absolutely incredible story about all the sex and crazy partying done by young Republicans at a conservative gathering called CPAC. I had been at enough conservative functions — including that one — to know that they would have been a heck of a lot more interesting if they focused on sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll. But in the fever dreams of Stephen Glass, they did. Here are the opening two paragraphs of the very detailed story that, it later turned out, nobody could verify:

On the fourth floor of Washington’s Omni Shoreham Hotel, eight young men sit facing each other on the edge of a pair of beds. They are all 20 or 21 and are enrolled in Midwestern colleges. Each is wearing a white or blue shirt with the top button unfastened, and each has his striped tie loosened. One of the young men, an Ohioan, is wearing a green and white button that reads: “Save the Males.” The minibar is open and empty little bottles of booze are scattered on the carpet. On the bed, a Gideon Bible, used earlier in the night to resolve an argument, is open to Exodus. In the bathroom, the tub is filled with ice and the remnants of three cases of Coors Light. The young men pass around a joint, counterclockwise…

Over the next hour, in a haze of beer and pot, and in between rantings about feminists, gays and political correctness, the young men hatch a plan. Seth, a meaty quarterback from a small college in Indiana, and two others will drive to a local bar. There, the three will choose the ugliest and loneliest woman they can find. “Get us a real heifer, the fatter the better, bad acne would be a bonus,” Michael shouts. He is so drunk he doesn’t know he is shouting. Seth will lure the victim, whom they call a “whale,” back to the hotel room. The five who stay behind will hide under the beds. After Seth undresses the whale, the five will jump out and shout, “We’re beaching! Whale spotted!” They will take a photograph of the unfortunate woman.

So we have eight conservative men — first names only, thank you! — who participate in a gang sexual assault after drinking beer and smoking a joint. Where have I heard this story beforesince?

Heh. As Allahpundit quipped yesterday at Hot Air, “Trust no Penn graduates from the class of 1994,” in his post titled, “Devastating: WaPo report strongly suggests Jackie made up the UVA rape story whole cloth,” he linked to the Rosetta Stone of fabulists — Sabrina Rubin Erdely’s profile of Glass and the 2003 biopic of his downfall, Shattered Glass, for her University of Pennsylvania student newspaper.

And keep reading Hemingway’s article for yet another coincidence, albeit one likely not intended by Erdely — plenty of shattered glass appears in her Rolling Stone profile of “Jackie,” which led to the beginnings of the story’s unraveling.

Related: Glenn Reynolds adds:

I’d also like to know how much coordination there was among folks at UVA — Emily Renda worked in UVA President Teresa Sullivan’s office, and on the White House “It’s On Us” campus rape group, and I believe was the one who told Erdely about Jackie’s case — and Rolling Stone, and the White House, and Sens. Gillibrand and McCaskill. Perhaps someone will ask them, or submit a FOIA request to the White House and a state FOIA to President Sullivan’s office. Conveniently, McCaskill and Gillibrand aren’t subject to FOIA, but that doesn’t stop intrepid reporters from asking them.

I’d also be interested in hearing from reporters themselves: Was the White House pushing this story?

Yes, I’d like to hear from all the president’s stenographers as well.