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Sad ending: Jonah Lehrer's book 'How We Decide' is pulled by publisher

Jonah Lehrer quit his position as a New Yorker staff writer following allegations that he fabricated quotes in his book 'Imagine.'

By Husna Haq / March 5, 2013

Jonah Lehrer's book 'How We Decide' will no longer be sold by its original publisher, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

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There's another sad chapter in the Johah Lehrer fabrication fiasco.

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Some seven months after the bright young writer quit his prestigious position as staff writer for The New Yorker following allegations that he fabricated quotes in his bestselling book “Imagine” comes news that publisher Houghton Mifflin Harcourt is pulling another of his books, “How We Decide.”

The publisher announced Friday it will no longer sell copies of Lehrer’s second book after an internal review revealed significant problems with the text.

“After completing our fact-check process for Jonah Lehrer’s work, we have decided to take ‘How We Decide’ off sale,” Lori Glazer, Harcourt’s executive director of publicity, wrote in an e-mail, according to the New York Times. “We have no plans to reissue it. We do plan to continue to sell ‘Proust Was a Neuroscientist.’”

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt also said it will offer refunds to those who have purchased the book, which explains how people make decisions and how decision-making can be improved. 

Though the publisher never revealed why it decided to discontinue selling the book, Michael Moynihan has offered some insight. Moynihan is the writer who uncovered fabricated Bob Dylan quotes in Lehrer’s book “Imagine” after earlier allegations that Lehrer had re-purposed quotes in several New Yorker blogs.

Moynihan wrote a piece in the Daily Beast explaining that he privately provided Houghton Mifflin Harcourt with “problematic passages gleaned from a cursory look at ‘How We Decide.’” He goes on to cite a quote from a pilot whom Lehrer said he interviewed for the book but who actually made an almost identical statement some 20 years earlier in a lecture to NASA.

“Even after the Dylan fiasco, after Imagine had been pulped, and after he publicly declared that the 'lies were over now,' Lehrer told me via email that he had indeed interviewed Haynes – providing an email thread of their initial communication – and that the pilot had said the exact same thing, in the exact same language, to him 20 years later,” Moynihan wrote in his Daily Beast piece.

We’re sad to see a promising young writer further disgraced and hope, as Moynihan wrote, that “here ends the whole squalid saga.”

Husna Haq is a Monitor correspondent.

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