Another one bites the dust?

April 18, 2011

Last night’s 60 Minutes exposed Greg Mortenson’s memoir, Three Cups of Tea, as a fabrication.  According to the report, Mortenson’s book has some inconsistencies that just don’t add up.  Jon Krakauer, author and former friend of Mortenson, states “It’s a beautiful story – and it’s a lie.”

Mortenson’s book begins with a tale of going astray from a climbing party as he descended K2.  He ended up in the town of Korphe, Afghanistan, and was taken in by villagers.  To repay their kindness, he built a school and then embarked on a program to build schools throughout the region.  Later, he was kidnapped by the Taliban (last night’s story states these were actually his tour guides).  Witnesses deny Mortenson’s claims, stating that he was never lost in the descent and did not visit Korphe until one year later.  Further, Mortenson appears to be less well-known in Afghanistan than he is the U.S., unusual for a man who has built over 140 schools.

What’s the fallout?  Unlike the exposure of James Frey’s memoir, A Million Little Pieces, this case is much more sensational because the stakes are greater.  Mortenson’s Central Asia Institute, headquartered in Bozeman, MT, has attracted some $60 million in donations, including $100,000 from President Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize.  Mortenson himself has become a go-to guy for American think tanks and the U.S. military.  Will his good work be for naught?

Posted by Nancy


2 Responses to “Another one bites the dust?”

  1. Lorraine Says:

    There have been a few more articles on this:
    LA Times: Investigation throws ‘Three Cups of Tea’ author Greg Mortenson’s charity work into doubt:
    NY times: ‘Three cups of Tea’ author defends book:

    Mortenson responds in the Bozeman Daily Chronicle: Mortenson under fire from ’60 Minutes’ — Bozeman philantrhopist denies allegations:

  2. Darren Says:

    “Will his good work be for naught?”

    I’m one of those once-donors to the CAI who is crushed by these allegations/revelations. I can’t think of a much worthier cause and fear that good schools that are really being helped will now be left out to dry. I haven’t heard allegations that *none* of this money is going to its intended purpose and hope some other agency (with tighter standards perhaps) will assume the mantle. Without a fascinating, best-selling book to draw attention, though, it will be difficult for anyone else to fill the gap and again the innocent suffer. Alas.

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