Anti-drug group considers adding magazines to $10 million libel suit
Editors at The New Republic apologized in June to the magazine's readers after finding that a 25-year-old staff writer had fabricated all or part of 27 of the 41 articles he wrote for the publication. Now an anti-drug group is considering naming the magazine and Rolling Stone in a $10 million libel lawsuit it has filed against Glass.
The Drug Abuse Resistance Education organization recently filed a federal lawsuit in Los Angeles, charging that Stephen Glass took “free license to invent facts, people and scenarios, falsely describing them in detail” in two articles he wrote about D.A.R.E.
“D.A.R.E. was one victim of many,” the suit states. “There is absolutely no truth to Glass' statements regarding D.A.R.E. and Glass has admitted as such.”
One article was published in The New Republic on March 3, 1997, the other was a free-lance piece for Rolling Stone on March 5, 1998.
In the articles, Glass accused D.A.R.E. of covering up alleged problems with the program and intimidating people into not exposing them.
The New Republicarticle, “Don't You D.A.R.E.,” accused the program of encouraging children to turn in their parents for suspected drug use. Glass cited the case of a 10-year-old boy who, he said, was talked into doing just that by officials at the D.A.R.E. chapter in Douglasville, Ga. According to the suit, there was no D.A.R.E. program in Douglasville.
“Truth or D.A.R.E,” the Rolling Stone article, accused D.A.R.E. leaders of trying to “silence critics, suppress scientific research and punish non-believers.” For example, Glass wrote that D.A.R.E. officials retaliated against an Illinois college professor who had criticized the program by falsely accusing him of trying to sell drugs to students on campus.
The New Republic
fired Glass after he admitted that he made up a story about computer hackers. That confession prompted a monthlong investigation. Glass cooperated with the investigation and apologized in letters to Charles Lane, an editor with the magazine, and Martin Peretz, the owner and editor-in-chief.
D.A.R.E.'s lawyer Skip Miller told said: “It's really an outrageous and incredible thing for a reporter and then for magazines like New Republic and Rolling Stone to print an article that was completely fabricated, made up out of whole cloth. Things that are alleged in the article did not occur, so it's a sad day for journalism in this country when that kind of thing happens.
“It's unfortunate and puts what I always thought were reputable magazines in a bad light,” Miller said. “I don't understand how they can permit that. They refused to retract the stories. They told us to jump in the lake! They said that they didn't do anything wrong.”
Sandra Baron of the Libel Defense Resource Center said: “On one level, I can't figure out why D.A.R.E. would file this lawsuit. I can't imagine Glass is worth enough to make it worthwhile. Everyone in the U.S. knows that the author of these reports has admitted to making them up. I'm sort of surprised that D.A.R.E. would want to be bothered.”
LDRC is a New York-based, nonprofit information clearinghouse that monitors and promotes First Amendment rights in the libel, privacy and related fields of law.
While Miller seems to be confident, Baron warned that there are risks for D.A.R.E.
“It seems to me that someone fired in disgrace is a pretty good vindication,” Baron said. “The irony of this situation is that the burden [of proof] is now on them. I'm astonished that that's an undertaking they want. I'm surprised that they wouldn't take a victory already handed to them, declare it so and run.”
Miller said he has not yet decided to list the two magazines as defendants in the suit. That matter is still being debated, he said.
Stacey Zolt, a New Republic researcher, said that no one from the publication is at liberty to comment on the D.A.R.E issue at this time. Nor would she reveal if and where Glass is now employed. The magazine did, however, issue an apology:
“It is true that some of the anti-drug program's critics have felt pressured to soften or change their views. But Glass fabricated some of the persons who purportedly had negative experiences with D.A.R.E., including 'Daniel, a young professor at an Illinois college' and 'James, a television news producer.' Also invented are an 'NBC employee' and a 'Justice Department official' to whom Glass attributed information.
“…We offer no excuses for any of this. Only our deepest apologies to all concerned.”
Glass' attorney Gerson A. Zweifach said that since his client has not yet been served notice of the lawsuit he does not know if he will be handling the litigation.
One would think that “The New Republic's decision to dismiss Glass would please the people who were the subjects of the stories,” he said. “Apparently, they are proceeding nonetheless.”
According to Zweifach, this is the first libel lawsuit to stem from one of Glass' fabricated stories.