* Moynihan "baffled" by Lehrer's reckless behavior
* Expects plagiarism scandals to recur
By Christine Kearney
NEW YORK, Aug 1 (Reuters) - Journalist Michael Moynihan did not have to read past the first chapter of writer Jonah Lehrer's best-selling book "Imagine: How Creativity Works" to realize the high-profile writer had fabricated some of its material, namely quotes from Bob Dylan.
Yet even after Moynihan exposed Lehrer's misquotations, causing the 31-year-old Rhodes scholar, neuroscientist, columnist, and nonfiction writer to resign from a staff position at The New Yorker magazine and issue an apology this week, he is still mystified by Lehrer's reckless behavior.
"I am honestly baffled by it," Moynihan, who has exposed other cases of plagiarism and fabrications in other books and articles, told Reuters in an interview.
"I have never quite figured out why people do it and I find it endlessly fascinating, especially in the case of Jonah Lehrer, where the quotes were, so, kind of, insignificant. It was so unnecessary."
The psychology behind writers who fabricated or plagiarized material, from journalists Stephen Glass and Jayson Blair to authors such as James Frey, suggests that these individuals succumb to ambition.
"There are brilliant people who are capable of independent, excellent, ethical work who seem addicted to praise that comes from high achievement," said Roy Peter Clark, of the Poynter Institute, a non-profit school for journalism in Florida.
The quick career rise of Lehrer, who had been compared to writer Malcolm Gladwell and had published three books, likely contributed to his downfall, said Clark, because he set up such high early expectations.
Lehrer's literary agent, Andrew Wylie, said the author was not giving interviews or making any further statements.
Moynihan, 37, spent three-and-a-half weeks pursuing Lehrer with "a lot" of emails and phone calls asking about the authenticity of the Dylan quotes for an article for online publication Tablet.
After previous allegations that Lehrer had reused his own material, Moynihan was first troubled in Lehrer's book by a well-know Dylan remark. Lehrer wrote in his book Dylan once said, "God, I'm glad I'm not me," he said. "I'm glad I'm not that." But Moynihan could not find any verifiable reference for that additional last sentence -- "I'm glad I'm not that."
Soon more troubling misquotes emerged, including a Dylan quote about his inspiration for songs - "I just write them. There's no great message. Stop asking me to explain" that Lehrer said was mined from the Dylan documentary "Don't Look Back." But Moynihan could find no record of the entire quote.
After stonewalling Moynihan's requests, Lehrer has now admitted to lying to Moynihan by initially telling him that the quotes were authentic and taken from archival interview footage provided by Dylan's representatives.
In his statement Lehrer said, "This was a lie spoken in a moment of panic" and explained "The quotes in question either did not exist, were unintentional misquotations, or represented improper combinations of previously existing quotes."
DYLAN WAS HIS DOWNFALL
Moynihan, a Dylan fan, said the fact that Lehrer had chosen Dylan to misquote made it even easier to verify.
"Dylan is a guy that not only is famously reticent about giving interviews, but his fans are famously psychotic about these things," he said. "It was an incredibly stupid thing to do."
The case has sparked commotion in the media and publishing worlds, especially since it involved top-shelf brands like The New Yorker and Lehrer's publisher Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. The latter immediately halted shipments of the physical books and e-book sales for "Imagine."
But Moynihan and others doubt the Lehrer case will prompt meaningful changes to prevent such fabrications at media outlets and publishers, many of which are struggling to build profitable business models for the digital age.
"This has happened so many times in the past and I have never seen movement," Moynihan said. "The publishing industry is getting killed in a lot of ways....I don't expect they will be adding staff to more rigorously factcheck books."
While the Internet makes it easier for writers to cut and paste, digital technology also makes it easier to track down fraudulent writing, experts say.
"If anything, people are publishing stuff a thousand times faster with fewer checks on facts because of the nature of being first on the Internet," Moynihan said.
Former New York Times reporter Jayson Blair wrote in The Daily Beast this week that the Internet was more of a temptation to copy today than when he admitted to plagiarism in 2003.
None of the major publishing houses contacted by Reuters would comment on who is primarily responsible for fact-checking nonfiction books.
Michael Aloisi, the founder of small publishing house AuthorMike Ink, said most book contracts will state that the author is responsible for the legality of the book's content.
"A publisher could take action to pursue damages, but unless they really want to make an example out of him, most likely they won't," Aloisi said via email.
He said that James Frey signed a lucrative book deal with HarperCollins the year after his book "A Million Little Pieces" published by Random House was exposed as a fraud.
"That hardly seems like a deterrent to me," Aliosi said. "Hopefully though, the more people that do get caught like Lehrer, the more writers will think twice about making something up."
Moynihan's own motivation was the pursuit of fairness.
"People don't like cheaters and this job that we do is at times very frustrating," he said. "But at no time have I ever decided, 'Well you know what, screw this, I am going to make this work and I am going to cut corners,' - I just don't think it is fair."
Still to this day he hasn't read past the first chapter of Lehrer's book. Nor does he have any illusions about his own sudden fame and future.
"I challenge anybody out there to name the person who exposed Stephen Glass. I actually can't," Moynihan said, referring to the journalist, who fabricated articles at The New Republic in the nineties.
"So this will all disappear very quickly, which is fine by me," he added. (Additonal reporting by Patricia Reaney, Editing by Mary Milliken and Leslie Gevirtz)
Rathergate at CBS
In 2004, a 60 Minutes II report alleged that George W. Bush failed to fulfill his service to the National Guard, relying on documents that were <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2004/09/20/politics/campaign/20guard.html" target="_hplink">revealed to be forged</a>. CBS News producer Mary Mapes got the infamous documents from a former U.S. Army National Guard officer who later admitted to lying about their source. The scandal resulted in Mapes's termination, the resignation of other news execs and, some speculate, anchor Dan Rather's retirement a year earlier than planned.
WaPo Journalist Fabricated Child Heroin Addict Story
In 1980, Washington Post reporter Janet Cooke penned <a href="http://www.uncp.edu/home/canada/work/markport/lit/litjour/spg2002/cooke.htm" target="_hplink">"Jimmy's World,"</a> about an 8-year old heroin addict, sparking an all-out police search for the boy that turned up nothing. Days after her article won the Pulitzer Prize, her editors confronted her about inconsistencies in her resume and she confessed that Jimmy didn't exist.
Jayson Blair at the New York Times
27-year-old Jayson Blair was an emerging force at the New York Times in 2003 when it was discovered that he had plagiarized and fabricated facts in at least 36 articles for the paper. An ensuing investigation revealed that Blair made up names, quotes and scenes for high-profile stories on Jessica Lynch, the families of other soldiers in Iraq and the 2002 sniper attacks. Then-executive editor Howell Raines and managing editor Gerald Boyd resigned in the fallout of the scandal, which the Times called "<a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2003/05/11/us/correcting-the-record-times-reporter-who-resigned-leaves-long-trail-of-deception.html" target="_hplink">a low point in the 152-year history of the newspaper</a>."
Stephen Glass And The New Republic
A rising star at the political magazine, Glass plunged the New Republic into scandal in 1998, when it was discovered that he'd made up entire stories, as well as quotes and sources, over a three year period.
USA Today Scandal
Jack Kelley, a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter for the paper, was found to have <a href="http://www.usatoday.com/news/2004-03-18-2004-03-18_kelleymain_x.htm" target="_hplink">plagiarized and fabricated</a> "substantial portions" of at least eight stories.
Boston Globe Published Fake Porn Pics
In 2004, the <a href="http://www.boston.com/news/globe/editorial_opinion/oped/articles/2004/05/14/a_series_of_errors_on_lewd_images/" target="_hplink">Boston Globe printed pictures</a> from a porn website called "Sex in War" that it claimed depicted U.S. soldiers raping Iraqi women. Other news sources <a href="http://www.wnd.com/?pageId=24597" target="_hplink">exposed the photos as fakes</a> a week before the Boston Globe published them, and critics alleged that a simple Google search would've shown as much.
Fox News Faked Kerry Manicure Report
Weeks before the 2004 presidential election, Fox News political reporter Carl Cameron claimed in an <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2004/10/03/politics/campaign/03fox.html" target="_hplink">article</a> that candidate John Kerry received a pre-debate manicure and gloated about it. Cameron attributed fabricated quotes to Kerry, including "Didn't my nails and cuticles look great? What a good debate!" and "Women should like me! I do manicures." Fox retracted the piece and apologized, blaming its publication on "bad judgment and fatigue."
The Hitler Diaries
It seemed too good to be true -- secret diaries of Hitler's spanning 13 years? -- <a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/features/3636377/Hitler-diaries-scandal-Wed-printed-the-scoop-of-the-century-then-it-turned-to-dust.html" target="_hplink">and it was</a>. Multiple organizations, including Rupert Murdoch's Sunday Times, Newsweek, and German magazine Stern, wound up with egg on their face when the diaries proved to be fake.
Daily Mirror Soldier Hoax
Piers Morgan was editing the British tabloid when it ran pictures purportedly showing soldiers abusing Iraqi prisoners. It turned out that the pictures were fake. Morgan was fired.
Judy Miller Scandal
New York Times reporter Miller got scoop after scoop about the alleged weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Unfortunately, there weren't any weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, and Miller ultimately left the paper under a cloud. The Times took a serious hit to its reputation for publishing the stories.
Phone Hacking Scandal
Rupert Murdoch's papers got into a little bit of trouble for hacking into dead peoples' phones and spying on princes and things.
Zakaria apologized for plagiarizing from the New Yorker.
Lehrer admitted to lifting quotes, fabricating material and lying about it.
New York Post's Subway Photo
The tabloid got into trouble for running a picture of a man about to be killed by an oncoming train.
NBC's George Zimmerman Edit
The network fired reporters and producers for a botched edit which distorted a tape of the Trayvon Martin shooter.
In this undated image released by The Public Theater, Mike Daisey is shown in a scene from "The Agony and The Ecstasy of Steve Jobs," in New York. Daisey, whose latest show has been being credited with sparking probes into how Apple's high-tech devices are made, is finding himself under fire for distorting the truth. The public radio show This American Life retracted a story Friday, March 16, 2012, that it broadcast in January about what Daisey said he saw while visiting a factory in China where iPads and iPhones are made. (AP Photo/The Public Theater, Stan Barouh)
Bush Administration Paid Journalists
A 2005 USA Today investigative report revealed that the <a href="http://www.usatoday.com/news/washington/2005-01-06-williams-whitehouse_x.htm" target="_hplink">Bush administration paid columnists</a> hundreds of thousands of dollars in public funds to promote the administration's policies. Armstrong Williams, Maggie Gallagher and Michael McManus were among those who received money to support No Child Left Behind and Bush's marriage initiative in their pieces.
CNN Knew About Human Rights Abuses in Iraq
In 2003, CNN news chief Eason Jordan revealed that <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2003/04/11/opinion/the-news-we-kept-to-ourselves.html?src=pm" target="_hplink">the network had known about Saddam Hussein's human rights abuses</a> since 1990, but didn't report them to keep the Baghdad bureau open and protect the safety of its employees and sources.
Packwood Scandal at the Oregonian
The Oregonian failed to investigate evidence that <a href="http://www.ajr.org/Article.asp?id=2101" target="_hplink">Sen. Robert Packwood had sexually harassed several women</a>, even though he had kissed one of the paper's own reporters after an interview. The Washington Post broke the story in 1992, creating a serious lack of trust that the Oregonian would take on the state's power brokers, which was only compounded in 2004 when the paper <a href="http://www.ajr.org/Article.asp?id=3706 " target="_hplink">underreported former Gov. Neil Goldschmidt's statuatory rape</a> of a 14-year old girl as an "affair."
NBC Staged Explosion On-Air
A 1992 Dateline NBC segment showed a General Motors truck exploding after a low-speed crash with another car. GM later sued the network when the explosion was <a href="http://www.ew.com/ew/article/0,,305709,00.html" target="_hplink">revealed to have been staged</a> with remote-controlled devices, and NBC News President Michael Gartner was forced to resign.
Tribune CEO Accused of Pervasive Sex Talk
Randy Michaels resigned as the Tribune Company's CEO in 2010 after allegations that his leadership transformed the company, which owns the Chicago Tribune and the Los Angeles Times, into "<a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/06/business/media/06tribune.html" target="_hplink">a frat house, complete with poker parties, juke boxes and pervasive sex talk</a>." Michaels allegedly discussed the sexual suitability of co-workers, and told a waitress he would give her $100 to show him her breasts in front of his co-workers.
Hearst Executive's Sexting Scandal
Top Hearst executive Scott Sassa <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/03/14/scott-sassa-hearst-executive-resigns-stripper-sexting_n_2874988.html?utm_hp_ref=media" target="_blank">resigned</a> after a stripper released their sexting exchanges.