Jonah Lehrer gave his first extensive public comments about his serial plagiarism at a Knight Foundation seminar on Tuesday.
Lehrer was forced to resign from the New Yorker, and was fired from Wired magazine, after a lengthy trail of lifted and fabricated material was found in his blog posts, articles and books.
On Tuesday, he acknowledged his mistakes. For the privilege of telling an audience of journalists that he had committed grievous personal and professional sins, Lehrer was paid $20,000 by Knight.
"I am the author of a book on creativity that contains several fabricated Bob Dylan quotes," he said. "I committed plagiarism on my blog ... I plagiarized from myself. I lied to a journalist named Michael Moynihan to cover up the Dylan fabrications.
“My mistakes have caused deep pain to those I care about. I am constantly remembering all the people I have hurt and let down: friends, family, colleagues, my wife, my parents, my editors. I think about all the readers I’ve disappointed, people who paid good money for my book and don’t want it on their shelves. I’ve broken their trust; for that I am profoundly sorry. It is my hope that some day my transgressions might be forgiven.”
During his talk, Lehrer said that he had come to accept that his flaws were a "fundamental" part of who he was. Later, Lehrer took questions from the audience, many of whom wanted to know about the "arrogance" inherent in his actions.
"I’m just trying to grapple with my own arrogance and come up with the rules that force me every day to contain it," he said.
Alberto Ibargüen, the president and CEO of the Knight Foundation, defended the organization's invitation to Lehrer on Tuesday. He told The Huffington Post's Michael Calderone that the organization wanted Lehrer to speak about the decision-making process behind his plagiarism.
Ibarguen said he doesn't question "the umbrage that people have about what [Lehrer] did" and that "some people are still angry and feel he should be punished."
He also addressed those critical of the Knight Foundation's hefty payment to Lehrer, saying, "I understand the point of view."
Lehrer's talk was the subject of much debate on Twitter. Some people criticized him for comparing his failings to those of the FBI. And Michael Moynihan, the writer who led the way in exposing his misdeeds, said Lehrer still had a great deal to account for:
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