The seemingly prodigious young writer drew criticism last month when he admittedly recycled his own writing in blog posts for the New Yorker, including lines taken almost verbatim from previously published Wall Street Journal essays.
Now, Michael C. Moynihan, a writer for the Jewish magazine Tablet, revealed that Lehrer concocted Bob Dylan quotes and later lied to Moynihan because he "panicked."
"Three weeks ago, I received an email from journalist Michael Moynihan asking about Bob Dylan quotes in my book 'Imagine,'" Lehrer, 31, said in a statement. "The quotes in question either did not exist, were unintentional misquotations, or represented improper combinations of previously existing quotes. But I told Mr. Moynihan that they were from archival interview footage provided to me by Dylan's representatives. This was a lie spoken in a moment of panic. When Mr. Moynihan followed up, I continued to lie, and say things I should not have said."
"The lies are over now. I understand the gravity of my position. I want to apologize to everyone I have let down, especially my editors and readers. I also owe a sincere apology to Mr. Moynihan. I will do my best to correct the record and ensure that my misquotations and mistakes are fixed. I have resigned my position as staff writer at The New Yorker."
At first, Lehrer apparently ignored Moynihan's requests for clarification when he located a quote in the book that appeared to be sewn together from two separate interviews with the folk singer, according to the Tablet writer.
Over the next three weeks, Moynihan said Lehrer "stonewalled, misled and, eventually, outright lied to me."
Lehrer confessed to Moynihan on Sunday that he lied.
"I couldn't find the original sources," Lehrer told Moynihan. "I panicked. And I'm deeply sorry for lying."
David Remnick, the editor of the New Yorker, said in a statement: "This is a terrifically sad situation, but, in the end, what is most important is that the integrity of what we publish and what we stand for."
Late Monday morning, Tablet's website was down and the magazine tweeted that it was suffering a DDoS - denial of service - attack, the details of which remain unclear.
Taryn Roeder, a spokeswoman for Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, told TheWrap that the publisher was "exploring all options available" with the book while all e-books were taken off-sale and shipments of physical copies halted.
By Alexander C. Kaufman