Lehrer’s career was torpedoed back in 2012 when it was revealed that he had repeatedly recycled his own work, made up quotes, and plagiarized the work of other writers. Lehrer did his best to avoid taking responsibility, lying to reporters and blaming his own high IQ. Lehrer ultimately did face consequences—he resigned from The New Yorker—but not for long, really. Less than a year after the debacle began, Lehrer had a new deal from Simon & Schuster for a book about love called A Book About Love.
That book will be out next Tuesday. It opens with Lehrer telling his readers just how sorry he is, really, and that he’ll never do it again, seriously:
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 prevent these mistakes from happening again, I have followed a simple procedure in this book. All quotes and relevant text have been sent to subjects for their approval. This also applies to the research I describe: whenever possible, my writing has been sent to the scientists to ensure accuracy. In addition, the book has been independently fact-checked.
There’s no reason to doubt Lehrer’s sincerity. As he told Jon Ronson, “I’m just drenched in shame and regret. The shaming process is fucking brutal.” But Gawker’s headline about Lehrer’s return says it best: Lehrer is apologizing so you’ll buy his book.
Lehrer only has a new book because people will buy it. Simon & Schuster gave him a book deal not because he had gone on a heartfelt vision quest wherein he realized the true error of his ways, but because he has an incredibly strong sales record. People buy books written by Jonah Lehrer, and the apology, heartfelt or not, is there to assure you that you won’t, to quote Jonah Lehrer’s 1971 hit, get fooled again.