Jonah Lehrer: New Yorker writer resigns after faking Bob Dylan quotes
A staff writer for The New Yorker magazine resigned on Monday, after admitting he had made up quotes from singer and songwriter Bob Dylan in his book “Imagine: How Creativity Works”.
Science journalist and author Jonah Lehrer became the latest nonfiction writer to admit making up material, saying in a statement released Monday by the book’s publisher, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, that he had lied to a journalist for online publication Tablet who had questioned Lehrer several weeks ago about the authenticity of quotes in a section devoted to Dylan.
The inquiry by reporter Michael Moynihan followed earlier allegations that Lehrer had repurposed quotes in several New Yorker blogs.
“The quotes in question either did not exist, were unintentional misquotations, or represented improper combinations of previously existing quotes,” Lehrer said.
He also admitted to lying to Moynihan by initially telling the Tablet reporter that the quotes were authentic and taken from archival interview footage provided 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,” he 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.”
Lehrer said he had also resigned from his position at The New Yorker.
“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,” said New Yorker editor David Remnick.
Other books – mostly memoirs – that have caused controversy for being fakes in past 10 years include James Frey’s “A Million Little Pieces” and Herman Rosenblat’s canceled 2009 holocaust memoir, “Angel at the Fence: The True Story of a Love That Survived.”
Most publishers say they rely on authors to tell the truth.
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt said in its statement, “In light of the serious misuse of quotations” in “Imagine,”, “we are exploring all options available to us. We are taking the e-book of IMAGINE off-sale, and halting shipment of physical copies.”
Among other publishing scandals, Jayson Blair famously resigned from the New York Times in 2003 amid charges of plagiarism, and Stephen Glass fabricated a number of stories for The New Republic magazine in the late 1990s before he was discovered.