Greg Mortenson's "Three Cups of Tea" – a "beautiful story" but also "a lie"?
Greg Mortenson, higly esteemed author and philanthropic constructor of schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan, has had his integrity called into question by a "60 Minutes" report.
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The CBS report, aired Sunday evening, claimed several passages from “Three Cups of Tea,” including the opening anecdote, were false. It also revealed that Mr. Mortenson’s charity, Central Asia Institute (CAI), spends more for book promotion and publicity than it does actually building schools overseas.
Mortenson defended himself in his hometown Bozeman Chronicle newspaper, denying several allegations and explaining others. He also issued a statement in which he said, “I stand by the information conveyed in my book and by the value of CAI's work in empowering local communities to build and operate schools that have educated more than 60,000 students.”
In “Three Cups of Tea,” Mortenson opens with an account of getting lost while mountain climbing in rural Pakistan and stumbling upon the village of Korphe in 1993. According to the book, the residents of Korphe nursed Mortenson back to health and it was their kindness that inspired the author and philanthropist to build a school.
“It’s a beautiful story, and it’s a lie,” said Jon Krakauer, mountaineer and author of “Into Thin Air,” in the CBS report.
According to Mr. Krakauer and porters who joined Mortenson on his mountain trip, Mortenson never visited Korphe on his descent and only visited the village a year later, in 1994.
In a Bozeman Chronicle story, Mortenson conceded the opening anecdote wasn’t literally true. “I stand by the story of ‘Three Cups of Tea'… The time about our final days on K2 and ongoing journey to Korphe village and Skardu is a compressed version of events that took place in the fall of 1993.”
Mortenson also claims he was captured by the Taliban and held for several days before being released, a claim CBS debunks in its report.
The CAI has “successfully established over 170 schools” and helped educate over 68,000 students, with an emphasis on girls' education,” according to the institute’s website.
However, the CBS report alleges that many of the 170 schools Mortenson’s charity built in Pakistan and Afghanistan either don't exist or were built by others.