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?”
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)
Julie Moos contributed to this report.