Another source claims Lehrer misconduct: ‘I know I didn’t say’ half of that

WhatIWannaKnow.com | Michael Moynihan | Slate
Milton Glaser, the artist best known for inventing the “I ♥ NY” logo, tells interviewer Ryan Kohls he never said half of what Jonah Lehrer attributed to him in his book “Imagine.” He also calls Lehrer’s behavior “self-sabotage.”

Well, it was so odd the whole thing. First off, I felt so sad for the poor guy. Here he was, his future guaranteed, top of the world working for the New Yorker, writing a book that had already sold 200,000 copies, and he shot himself. How could he have done that knowing it was inevitable he would be discovered? What kind of madness? Why would anybody do that? The self-sabotage to that degree was incomprehensible. I looked back at what I had said and half of it I know I didn’t say. … If you had modest intelligence, why would you set yourself up for the disaster of your life that would ruin your life forever? He will never recover from this.

Michael Moynihan, the journalist who first uncovered Lehrer’s fabrications in “Imagine,” corroborates on Twitter: “A few weeks back, I briefly corresponded with the great Milton Glaser regarding his appearance in Lehrer’s Imagine. … There was a quote that was supposedly from [Lehrer's] interview w/him that appeared lifted from another source. Glaser told me that while … the info was generally correct, he ‘believe[d] parts of it were picked up from other articles and parts were not in my voice.’ ”

Moynihan provided the two quotes by email:

Jonah quoting Glaser in “Imagine,” supposedly from his interview with him: “Their first idea was to use the Brooklyn Bridge or to call the beer the Brooklyn Eagle,” Glaser remembers. “And that could have worked; that’s clever enough. But I told them, ‘Why settle for only a small piece of Brooklyn when you can own the whole place?’ ”

And here is a speech given by the Brooklyn Brewery CEO in 2011, in which he quotes Milton: “Their first idea was to use the Brooklyn Bridge or to call the beer the Brooklyn Eagle,” Glaser remembers. I said, “Call it Brooklyn! Why do you want to be represented by a bird, when you can own the whole borough?”

In an interview with Robert Wright, Moynihan responded to the news that Lehrer remains on contract with Wired:

Are you kidding me? Already? You’ve got to be joking. And in the piece, I don’t know if it was Chris Anderson, who I have a lot of respect for, or whoever said, ‘Well, we looked at his stuff, the stuff that he did for us, and it was fine.’ Which is like saying, ‘Well he stole from Wal-Mart, he didn’t steal from Target, so we at Target will employ him.’ It’s really a senseless rationalization for it.

We don’t have any sort of institutional standards in journalism, it’s [a] case by case basis. Everybody makes up their own rules, in a lot of ways. You plagiarize something, you don’t go to jail. You get fired. We’re self-policing in that sense. So it’s up to whatever editors. If Wired wants to do that, then great. I’m not going to buy their magazine. …

Should he be rehabilitated? A couple things. It depends on the extent of this. Nobody has really done the excavation. I will say that I have been more pissed off at other journalists during a lot of this, a handful of whom, five or six, have emailed me and said, ‘Can you send me all the other stuff that you found?’ To which my response was, ‘No. Do it yourself, it’s not that difficult. I mean just look around, get the books, and do what I did. I’m not going to send it that to you, no.’

But until this is fully vetted, we can’t really know. So I think all of the immediate reactions of, ‘No, what he did wasn’t bad’ or ‘What he did was really bad.’ That was just a chapter. There’s more here. We should probably look more and see what else is there.

Related: “There is a big difference” between Jonah Lehrer and Fareed Zakaria (The New York Times) | What Jonah Lehrer and Fareed Zakaria have in common: They’re both intellectual brands (Vanity Fair) | “Journalists doing history tend to be superficial and formulaic” (Salon) | “Fareed Zakaria’s critics are just jealous (Newsweek)

Earlier: Lehrer reportedly fabricated quote by Teller in “Imagine” | Jonah Lehrer’s publisher is reviewing all of his books | Full coverage of Jonah Lehrer’s fabrication

Julie Moos contributed to this report.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/john.lobell John Lobell

    I gotta wonder – All of these expressing outrage on the behalf of that wonderful profession of impeccable integrity, “JOURNALISM:”
    - Have they ever read a story in the New York Times about themselves and noticed that none of the facts, which you know intimately, were correct?
    - Have they ever watched a network newscast story about ANYTHING?
    Oh No!!!! Real JOURNALISTS never make anything up. I mean, they wouldn’t shoot a rocket at a GM truck, or present presidential military documents written on a machine created twenty years after the date on the document. NOOOOO!!
    Or distort a story to favor a favored political candidate? NEVER!!!!!!!!!!!!
    And those are just two highly prominent events. There couldn’t be THOUSANDS more. Nooooo!!!

  • Wow Poynter

    That just strikes me as a shaky justification for printing unverified accusations. Because he made a very stupid mistake with the Dylan quotes does not seem to me to give you the license to print any attack that is tweeted out without assessing the validity of it. It feels a little to me like Moynihan is grasping at straws now to extend his time in the spotlight – is it possible Lehrer lifted the quote from the speech? Perhaps, but it seems much more likely that Glaser said something similar to Lehrer, and it feels like Poynter should do a better job assessing which critiques merit discussion, like those about the quality of his science, and which are just attacks for the sake of extending this story and making noise.

  • Anonymous

    No, I also read that they haven’t made a decision yet, and are going through all of his old stories to make sure he didn’t commit any other fabrications.. Wonder if he will claim other quotes came from Dylan’s “reps” (cough)?

  • Anonymous

    Read the Tablet piece. An intrepid reporter is just trying to fact check Dylan’s quotes. First Lehrer whines” Stop bothering me. ” And then finally, arrogantly, he makes up a bizarre whopper that Dylan’s “reps” gave him the quotes from their ultra secret archive- quotes that Lehrer claimed were going to be used in some upcoming documentary on Dylan by Scorcese. But Dylan’s reps had never been contacted by Lehrer, ever, and they said they’d never heard of him.

    For those of us who toil to make sure we get accurate quotes, how DUMB and how ARROGANT was it of Lehrer to think that his fabrication about his dealings with Dylan’s “reps” wouldn’t be fact checked..

  • Anonymous

    No, it’s LEHRER who crashed through the ice with his bizarre layer after layer of lies concerning where he got the Dylan quotes. It’s always the coverup that gets people into trouble. Did anyone here bother to read the actual Tablet piece, to see how many times Lehrer made up stories to the reporter?

  • Anonymous

    Um, no, it’s fabrication. Don’t enable Lehrer the liar.

  • http://www.poynter.org Poynter

    Thanks for the good comments on this. Sources can always say, “I didn’t say that” about a quote. A reporter’s best defense is a recording, second best may be interview notes. But the foundation of this defense is the reporter’s credibility. Because Lehrer’s behavior has raised questions about his credibility, these objections to quotes are of greater concern. And for a site about journalism, they are important stories for us to report. We will continue to learn what we can about Lehrer’s work and share that information with readers. –Julie

  • Wow Poynter

    I agree with Guest. It seems like Poynter is treading on thin ice, especially for a seemingly reputable journalistic institution, by republishing some of these unsubstantiated claims by Moynihan. Moynihan has done this a few times since he broke the story – making a claim that a quote is lifted when he has no evidence. Isn’t it possible, even likely, that someone like Glaser has said the same thing about a given topic in a number of places, including in his interview with Lehrer?

  • http://twitter.com/gasperdesouza Gasper DSouza

    A lot of the posts/news on Lehrer’s actions seem to forget the one point – having read Imagine, I say the book is great reading and offers excellent ideas on building creativity. Its a shame that aspect is lost in all of this furore.

  • Anonymous

    Actually, Lehrer only sites the Glaser quotes on pg. 68 as coming from his interview. This is, at worst, a case of a missing reference to a Glaser quote. Let’s remember that journalistic standards are not clear across all boundaries; academic, long form non-fiction, etc. A site like Poynter shouldn’t be so quick to point fingers.

  • http://www.poynter.org Poynter

    It appears Glaser is saying that Lehrer picked up the quotes from articles rather than from the interview with him. That seems different than contesting his exact quotes, no? –Julie Moos, Director of Poynter Online

  • http://www.poynter.org Poynter

    Glenn, what Jon Hammond told BuzzFeed was that Lehrer “was and remains on a features contract with Wired.” The later clarification that you link to did not contradict that, it only clarified that he has no current (or new) assignments. –Julie Moos, Director of Poynter Online

  • http://twitter.com/GlennF Glenn Fleishman

    You’re misrepresenting Wired’s stated position; see http://www.wired.com/about/wired-and-jonah-lehrer-for-the-record/ . (Disclosure: I haven’t written for Wired for a decade.)

    Wired says they’re looking through Lerher’s work and haven’t made a decision about his future. He is not under contract. He is a “contributing editor” which means non-staff, as they point out.

  • Anonymous

    Every journalist knows that people contest their exact quotes or “vernacular.” To call that fabrication is crazy.