Journalist Jonah Lehrer has resigned from The New Yorker on the same day Michael Moynihan makes pretty convincing case in Tablet Magazine that Lehrer invented, deceptively patched together, or at best could not provide documentation for several quotes he attributed to Bob Dylan in his book Imagine: How Creativity Works. Lehrer already found himself in a bit of a journalism scandal last month when he got caught copying his own work from earlier publications and using it for posts on his Frontal Cortex blog on The New Yorker's website, but Moynihan's accounts of quote fabrication and lying about one's sources point to a journo-crime of an entirely different degree. The New York Times's Julie Bosman reports that according to his publisher, he's resigned, and they will stop shipping his book. Bosman has a statement from Lehrer:
"Three weeks ago, I received an email from journalist Michael Moynihan asking about Bob Dylan quotes in my book Imagine," Mr. Lehrer said in a statement. "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.
Moynihan's entire tale of his attempts to verify the Bob Dylan quotes with Lehrer is worth a read (at the moment, Tablet has crashed), but Lehrer's statement is referring to the most damning of details in his correspondence with Moynihan as he attempted to track down quotes from Dylan about his song "Like a Rolling Stone."
Lehrer told me these quotes were a result of his research at "bobdylan.com headquarters," and that he had access to the uncut version of No Direction Home provided by Dylan's manager Jeff Rosen.
[...] when I contacted Dylan's management, they told me that they were unfamiliar with Lehrer, had never read his book, there was no bobdylan.com headquarters, and, to the best of their recollection, no one there had screened outtakes from No Direction Home for Lehrer. Confronted with this, Lehrer admitted that he had invented it.
(The "it" there is a reference to his source not to the quote itself. "I couldn't find the original sources," he tells Moynihan. "I panicked. And I'm deeply sorry for lying.") Moynihan writes that according to Lehrer "all of the unattributed quotes do come from somewhere; he simply cannot find their sources," but the patched together quotes that Moynihan did track down alone are pretty damning. Lehrer had moved his Frontal Cortex blog from Wired to The New Yorker just this June so thus ends a pretty brief stint at the magazine.
Update, 2:18 PM: David Remnick, editor of The New Yorker, put out this statement (quoted by Talking Points Memo):
"This is a terrifically sad situation, but, in the end, what is most important is the integrity of what we publish and what we stand for."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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