- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 21, 2003

It took six years. But in a handwritten letter, Stephen Glass has apologized to David Keene, president of the American Conservative Union, for writing lies about conservatives once upon a time.

And what lies.

In a New Republic article published March 31, 1997, Mr. Glass recounted the fictional hijinks of young Turks at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference that year.

It was “a lost weekend with conservatism’s drunk, dejected and angry younger generation,” he wrote, studding the story with X-rated, cocaine-snorting, naked vignettes of bad behavior. In an article a month earlier, Mr. Glass also invented the “Commission to Restore the Presidency to Greatness,” whose rabid membership believed President Clinton was really a woman.

Now Mr. Glass rues his ways.

“I am writing to tell you how sorry I am that I fabricated the CPAC story. I have worked hard over these past five years to understand and appreciate the pain I must have caused you and the ACU,” Mr. Glass wrote in his letter to Mr. Keene dated May 8, and penned in plain block print.

“I recently reread the story and was very ashamed of it. It was a horrible thing to have written, and I deeply regret it,” Mr. Glass continued, absolving New Republic editors and fact-checkers of blame.

“I know this is late in coming and very small in comparison to what I wrote about you, but I wanted you to know that I am sincerely remorseful,” Mr. Glass concluded.

Mr. Keene yesterday declined to comment on the letter.

Mr. Glass could not be reached for comment, though in a recent interview he told CBS he lied to create “perfect” stories and was now engaged in a “very long term of apologies.” He has also written other letters of apology to wronged parties, including Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE), a group that sued him in 1999 for $10 million over another New Republic article.

This is no simple exercise in dancing-class manners, however. Mr. Glass, 30, has a book to sell and a public redemption to complete.

Fired from the New Republic five years ago after editors discovered he had fabricated details in 27 of the 41 stories he had written for the magazine, Mr. Glass waded back into the journalistic pool early this month, clutching a mea-culpa life preserver.

He was sorry for everything. He had written a novel called “The Fabulist,” published by Simon & Schuster. He had rekindled his faith, graduated from law school, faithfully attended therapy sessions, and had found a kindly girlfriend. It was all going swimmingly.

But just as Newsweek and CBS pronounced Mr. Glass a prodigal son on the mend, New York Times reporter Jayson Blair stole the spotlight May 10 with an even larger fall from grace as the scope of his own plagiarism and fabrications became public.

The press is still dithering about Mr. Blair. Mr. Glass is now cast in a supporting role, chided by critics for shamelessly peddling his novel and granting mawkish interviews about his remorse.

Some were particularly piqued at his CBS “60 Minutes” interview May 11 after determining that the network and Simon & Schuster were both owned by Viacom.

“Shattered Glass,” a movie about Mr. Glass’ experience, is due to be released in late summer.

Despite judgmental hubub, there is still Mr. Glass’ letter to Mr. Keene, which is a straightforward apology.

“And it was the right and helpful thing to do,” said Peter Post, great-grandson of etiquette maven Emily Post and spokesman for the Vermont-based Emily Post Institute, a kind of manners think tank.

“Maybe it’s six years later, but Mr. Glass still wrote his letter,” Mr. Post said. “No one can get by their mistake until they acknowledge their wrong and take responsibility for it. This is all part of the process of rebuilding.”

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