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Summary:

Science writer Jonah Lehrer is resigning from his position as a staff writer at the New Yorker, following the discovery by Tablet magazine that Lehrer fabricated Bob Dylan quotations in his bestselling book “Imagine.” Lehrer’s publisher, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, will stop selling the book.

Jonah Lehrer
photo: Jonah Lehrer

Pop science writer Jonah Lehrer, who found himself in trouble last month when it was revealed that he was recycling his own previously written content in New Yorker blog posts, is now resigning from his position as a staff writer at the magazine. The news follows Tablet magazine reporter Michael Moynihan’s discovery that Lehrer fabricated Bob Dylan quotations in his bestselling book Imagine: How Creativity Works. (Update: Tablet’s website is down at the moment. A cached version of Moynihan’s article is here.)

New York Times book publishing reporter Julie Bosman first reported Lehrer’s resignation on Twitter.

Lehrer’s publisher, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, is “exploring all options available to us,” HMH spokeswoman Lori Glazer said in a statement. “We are taking the ebook of Imagine off-sale, and halting shipment of physical copies.” (For now, though, the book is still available on Amazon.)

Houghton Mifflin also provided a statement from Lehrer:

Three weeks ago, I received an email from journalist Michael Moynihan asking about Bob Dylan quotes in my book Imagine. The quotes in question either did not exist, were unintentional misquotations, or represented improper combinations of previously existing quotes. But I told Mr. Moynihan  that they were from archival interview footage provided to me by Dylan’s representatives. This was a lie spoken in a moment of panic. When Mr. Moynihan followed up, I continued to lie, and say things I should not have said.

The lies are over now. 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.

  1. David Thomas Monday, July 30, 2012

    Wow, a zinger. Down goes another very young shooting star in publishing. Here’s an interesting questions, though: This took a helluva legwork to zero in on the Leher’s achilles heel — a lot of time and effort to take down this guy. What was Moynihan’s motivation? Also, the editorial department at HMH needs to evaluate this — trust and publishing deadlines are no longer acceptable excuses following Frey, the young adult novel plagiarist, and Stephen Glass (New Republic).

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    1. Good question, David. Moynihan says in his piece that he’s “something of the Dylan obsessive—piles of live bootlegs, outtakes, books,” so I think that was his motivation to check it out.

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  2. Mr. Lehrer needs to take some time off for some introspection.

    We have created a culture of doing whatever it takes to become ‘successful’. In the meantime, morals and ethics have been put in the trunk as we speed down the road.

    At what cost?

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  3. This is just a direct result of our obsession with success at any cost.

    Habitual lying is a symptom of a much deeper sickness and it’s a sickness our world feeds without considering the consequence.

    I hope he takes some time away from pursuing whatever it is he felt he needed to chase and take a look inside and decide what is truly important.

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  4. RayBeckerman Monday, July 30, 2012

    There aren’t enough good Bob Dylan quotes, without making some up?

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    1. Andre Friedmann Monday, July 30, 2012

      For you wet-behind-the-ears young ‘uns, way back in the 1960s Dylan attracted rabid analysis from people now dead or, like me, *old*. Ain’t no way to fabricate Dylan quotes without getting tagged by some current or future geezer.

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  5. Yahoo should hire him :)

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  6. Nancy Gruver Tuesday, July 31, 2012

    And a word to the wise – the vast majority of non-fiction books, including those published by major presses, are never fact-checked by the publisher. That’s how he could get away with made-up quotes in a book that he probably couldn’t have gotten away with in a New Yorker piece. This has always astonished me, given that books are usually given more credence for being factual and well-researched than magazine articles.

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  7. Robin Miller Tuesday, July 31, 2012

    It gets irritating. I’m a drudge, neither famous nor prosperous after 30+ years of professional writing. Why do these hotshot pubs hire these hotshot liars? I write better than most of the liars, but that apparently doesn’t count. Going to the right New York parties and pretending to like the right people… ah, *that’s* the ticket.

    Whatever. I have some articles to write. Not high-paid ones, but the information and quotes in them will be accurate.

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  8. Interesting that there was no apology to Bob Dylan himself.

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