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Knight Foundation says it was a mistake to pay Jonah Lehrer $20,000
At a Knight Foundation lunch Tuesday, Jonah Lehrer apologized for plagiarism, fabrication and other ethical lapses in his articles and books. Now the Knight Foundation is apologizing for paying Lehrer $20,000 to speak at that lunch. Knight reveals that it invited Lehrer to speak after he had already lost jobs with The New Yorker and Wired for repeatedly misrepresenting his work as original:
Controversial speakers should have platforms, but Knight Foundation should not have put itself into a position tantamount to rewarding people who have violated the basic tenets of journalism. We regret our mistake. …
The fee was not unusual for a well-known author to address a large conference. But it was simply not something Knight Foundation, given our values, should have paid.
The Washington Post’s Erik Wemple spoke with Knight CEO and President Alberto Ibargüen just after critics questioned the fee; Wemple reports “there wasn’t a lot of dissension among decision-makers” about paying Lehrer. “We would typically pay a speaker sometimes more than that,” Ibargüen told Wemple.
Critics suggested Lehrer should donate the fee. Jeff Bercovici reached Lehrer by phone and asked about that possibility. “I read your article. I have nothing to say to you,” Lehrer told the Forbes reporter.
Scientific American guest writer Taylor Dobbs suggested Lehrer donate the money to a scholarship fund so that “young broke freelancers who might have once aspired to one day be just like you can go to ScienceOnline and learn this craft that you yesterday called a ‘profound privilege.’ That way, maybe those young broke freelancers can learn how not to be just like you.”