Celebrated science writer Jonah Lehrer has resigned his staff writing position at The New Yorker after quotes in his latest book, “Imagine: How Creativity Works,” were found to be fabricated.The quotes in question were raised by Michael C. Moynihan in an article for Tablet Magazine titled “Jonah Lehrer’s Deceptions.” In the first chapter of “Imagine,” Lehrer quotes Bob Dylan on the creative process: “It’s a hard thing to describe. It’s just this sense that you got something to say.” Moynihan writes that there is no evidence that the Dylan quote exists. When Moynihan approached Lehrer about it, the author told him the quotes came from an archival interview. Three weeks later, still unable to confirm the quotes, Moynihan followed up with Lehrer at which point the author responded, “I couldn’t find the original sources. I panicked. And I’m deeply sorry for lying.”
In a statement released by his publisher, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Lehrer acknowledges the lies and announces his resignation from the magazine. “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.”
Houghton Mifflin said it is “exploring all options available” in the wake of the fabricated quotes. The publisher is taking the e-book of “Imagine” off-sale and halting shipment of its physical copies.
Shortly after Lehrer started writing full-time for The New Yorker, media critic Jim Romenesko noticed that Lehrer’s first blog posts for the magazine borrowed heavily from his previous work. Lehrer apologized after the incident and editor’s notes were added to his posts. Before joining The New Yorker, Lehrer was a contributing editor at Wired. He has contributed to WNYC’s Radiolab and the Wall Street Journal.
New Yorker editor David Remnick said of Lehrer’s resignation: “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.”