10 Really Smart People Who Did Really Dumb Things

Jonah Lehrer Plagiarizes ... Himself
Shown in happier days, Jonah Lehrer participates in the "You and Your Irrational Brain" panel discussion at the 2008 World Science Festival in New York City. Thos Robinson/Getty Images for World Science Festival

Journalist Jonah Lehrer rose to stardom by age 31. He wrote for prestigious publications like the Wall Street Journal and The New Yorker and was a published author. His books focused on neuroscience, including "Imagine: How Creativity Works," about how the creative brain works [source: Harris].

In June of 2012, Lehrer got caught plagiarizing, a cardinal sin in journalism. Unlike most cases of plagiarism, though, Lehrer actually copied ... himself. He reused whole paragraphs from his Wall Street Journal pieces in blog posts that he wrote for The New Yorker [source: Kaufman]. In a New York Times interview, Lehrer apologized for the plagiarism, saying it was just plain laziness that drove him to duplicate his work across the two publications [source: Kaufman].

That alone might not have been enough to permanently damage his career -- the words he copied were his own, even if it was unethical to recycle them without his publisher's knowledge -- but just a month later, the magazine Tablet outed him for making up Bob Dylan quotes for "Imagine" and then lying about it [source: Kaufman].

Tablet reporter Michael C. Moynihan questioned Lehrer about some of the quotes in "Imagine," and Lehrer told him that the quotes came from an old interview that had not been made public. Lehrer later admitted that he made up the quotes, and that when Moynihan questioned their veracity, he panicked and lied about the source [source: Kaufman].

When the story broke, "Imagine" publisher Houghton Mifflin Harcourt pulled the e-book and stopped all shipments of the book's physical copy [source: Kaufman]. Lehrer also resigned in disgrace as a writer for The New Yorker.