Regardless, the Internet is not waiting for the book to be released to determine if Lehrer is a changed man or not. At Slate, Nina Subin delved into Lehrer’s 62-page book proposal and found a series of suspicious passages, portions of the proposal that seem to be a close paraphrases of a recent essay written by Adam Gopnik, who was at The New Yorker at the same time as Lehrer.
Subin also notes that the thesis of the book uses language that closely mirrors a speech Lehrer gave in 2011.
Though the evidence of plagiarism and self-plagiarism isn’t the most convincing, even in Lehrer’s history, the fact that there is any concern at all is striking. Lehrer is being given a second chance to write in his field, a chance few feel he deserves, and his new book is drawing plagiarism allegations before it is finished.
Both Lehrer and his publisher have to be aware that every word he writes will be scrutinized, fact checked and plagiarism checked over and over by an angry public. For Lehrer to include questionable passages in his proposal is a sign that he has not changed and that his “standard operating procedures” he touted in his speech four months ago are not working and have already failed to prevent plagiarism issues.
But the bigger problem with Lehrer’s return, especially after less than a year after the scandal broke, is the message it sends others. Lehrer is being allowed to return to his writing incredibly quickly after his downfall and without as much as a complete recounting of his misdeeds. That sends a clear message that you can violate the core values of both journalism and authorship and the punishment is a mere speed bump in your career.
But no matter what Lehrer does next, one thing is clear, others will be watching him with distrust and checking his work, looking for the next problem. Lehrer may be able to publish another book, but he’ll never be able to escape what he did and the scrutiny that comes with it.