Jonah Lehrer resigns from the New Yorker

The superstar journalist fabricated Bob Dylan quotes

Published July 30, 2012 6:09PM (EDT)

Jonah Lehrer, a best-selling author and prolific journalist who wrote for Wired, Scientific American Mind, the Wall Street Journal and other publications, has resigned from his position as a New Yorker staff writer after an article in Tablet Magazine reported that he had fabricated quotes in his latest book "Imagine.”

A few weeks ago, Lehrer was contacted by Michael C. Moynihan, a contributor to Tablet, about several Bob Dylan quotes that were hard to verify. Initially, Lehrer lied and tried to divert Moynihan by citing yet unavailable footage from a documentary and an ongoing collaboration with Dylan’s manager. After a few phone calls, Moynihan contacted Lehrer once again and called him out on the numerous inconsistencies. Lehrer admitted he had taken some quotes out of context, and fabricated others.

“The lies are over now,” he said in a statement. “I understand the gravity of my position. I want to apologize to everyone I have let down, especially my editors and readers. I also owe a sincere apology to Mr. Moynihan. I will do my best to correct the record and ensure that my misquotations and mistakes are fixed. I have resigned my position as staff writer at The New Yorker.”

Last month, Lehrer was involved in a “self-plagiarism” scandal. Back then, Jim Romenesko pointed out that Lehrer had used the same opening paragraph he had used in an October Op-Ed for the Wall Street Journal in his recently inaugurated New Yorker blog. After that initial finding, reporters from several outlets highlighted several other instances in which Lehrer had used, word-for-word, whole paragraphs from his earlier writings in more recent articles. Though he was not fired (a product of the male arrogance that pervades magazine culture, according to Michelle Dean), his blog posts were amended and his byline has been largely absent from the Web since June 13.

Lehrer's previous blunder, though often downplayed as laziness, is a behavior that many attribute to the pressures of the contemporary publishing world. With this latest fabrication, Lehrer is approaching Jayson Blair territory.

By Santiago Wills

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Jonah Lehrer Media Scandal The New Yorker