Jonah Lehrer says he’s sorry, again

July 5, 2016
Category: Ethics & Trust

Serial plagiarist and fabricator Jonah Lehrer wants readers to know he made a “mistake.”

That’s according to the introduction for his latest book, an exploration about intimate human relationships called “A Book About Love.”

In the book, his first solo effort since being outed for fabricating quotes by Bob Dylan and cribbing work from other authors, Lehrer says he’s “ashamed of what I’ve done” and will “regret it for the rest of my life.” Here’s the relevant passage, flagged this morning by The Washington Post’s Carlos Lozada.

In early August 2012, a book I wrote called Imagine was taken out of print and pulled from stores. This happened because I made several serious mistakes in the text. The worst of these mistakes involved fabricated quotes from Bob Dylan. In addition, there were passages where I relied on secondary sources that were not cited.

In the months that followed, other mistakes and failures came to light. In one instance, I plagiarized from another writer on my blog. My second book, “How We Decide,” was later taken out of print due to factual errors and improper citation.

I broke the most basic rules of my profession. I am ashamed of what I’ve done. I will regret it for the rest of my life.

To steer clear of similar dishonesty, Lehrer says he’s run quotes and supplemental information by subjects for their approval and sent portions of the book to scientists to ensure their accuracy. He’s also enlisted the help of an independent fact-checker to make sure nothing is amiss.

This isn’t the first time Lehrer has apologized publicly for his actions. During a 2013 appearance at The Knight Foundation (for which he was paid $20,000), Lehrer attributed the ethical lapses to “my tendency to believe my own excuses” and vowed to do better.

Lehrer’s dishonesty and the associated public flogging led some, including journalist-author Jon Ronson, to conclude that he was the victim of an internet shaming culture run amok. Others, including Slate’s Daniel Engber, said the totality of his lapses justified the criticism.