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Greg Mortenson responds to '60 Minutes' questions about his 'Three Cups of Tea' story

Bestselling author Greg Mortenson has issued a written response to a "60 Minutes" report calling into question his philanthropic practices and his experiences in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Mortenson chronicled those experiences in the books "Three Cups of Tea" and "Stones Into Schools" and leads the Central Asia Institute, an international charity that supports schools in remote regions of Pakistan and Afghanistan. Steve Kroft's "60 Minutes" report cited accounts that contradicted essential parts of Mortenson's story, and calls into question the way funds are allocated by the charity. The report, which aired Sunday night, is embedded above; "60 Minutes" posted Mortenson's response on its website. The following is from that statement.

60 Minutes' question: Did you really stumble into Korphe after failing to summit K2? The two porters who accompanied you on your journey down from K2 have told us you did not. We have three other sources that support the porters' accounts. The evidence suggests that you did not step foot in Korphe until a year later.

Greg Mortenson: Yes, I first visited Korphe village, Braldu valley, Baltistan, Pakistan, after failing to summit K2 in 1993, and met Haji Ali, a long time dear mentor and friend. My second visit to Korphe was in 1994. I made two visits to Korphe in 1995, the year we built the bridge over the Braldu River. And I again made two visits to Korphe in 1996, the year we built the Korphe School.

Mortenson further told the Bozeman Daily Chronicle, "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." He also told the paper, "As the co-author of the book, along with David Oliver Relin, I am responsible for the content in the book. There were many people involved in the story and also those who produced the manuscript. What was done was to simplify the sequence of events for the purposes of telling what was, at times, a complicated story."

Mortenson's written response continued:

It is important to know that Balti people have a completely different notion about time. Even the Balti language -- an archaic dialect of Tibetan -- has only a vague concept of tenses and time. For example, "now" can mean immediately or sometime over the course of a whole long season. The concept of past and future is rarely of concern. Often tenses are left out of discussion, although everyone knows what is implied. And if a person is a day or a week late or early it doesn't matter. The Balti consider the western notion of time quite amusing.

Language and perceptions of time seem to be coming into some kind of conflict. In his written statement, Mortenson looks to language, and an underlying difference in worldview, to blame for accounts that contradict his own. That's the same position he takes when responding to the television show's next question.

Question: Were you kidnapped for eight days by the Taliban in Waziristan in 1996? Three of the men in the photo you published in "Stones Into Schools" deny that they kidnapped you and say they are not Taliban. We have two other sources of information that support their account.

Mortenson: Yes, I was detained for eight days in Waziristan in 1996. It was against my will, and my passport and money were taken from me. I was not mistreated or harmed, but I was also not allowed to leave. A blanket was put over my head any time I was moved by vehicle. A "Talib" means student in Arabic, and, yes, there were Taliban in the region. Waziristan is an area where tribal factions and clan ties run deep. Some people are Taliban, some are not, and affiliations change overnight often on a whim. The Pathan people of Waziristan are proud people who I greatly admire. In speaking to American audiences, I often talk about my admiration for their concepts of Pashtunwali, their unwritten code of honor and conduct, and Nenawastay, hospitality.

The answer doesn't exactly address the question. Read the responses from the Central Asia Institute's (at www.ikat.org) board of directors and Mortenson's responses to the television show's other questions here.

Perhaps Mortenson will speak up further about these issues and others raised by the "60 Minutes" report.


Investigation throws "Three Cups of Tea" author Greg Mortenson's charity work into doubt

-- Carolyn Kellogg


Comments () | Archives (72)

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This man has done an amazing thing for human kind and it is sick that the media will try to make a story out of anything just to get viewers. It's disgusting.

"The concept of past and future is rarely of concern... The Balti consider the western notion of time quite amusing."

Now THERE'S a novel argument. Maybe Mortenson should just go full-on into science fiction mode and declare that, given an infinite number of universes, a universe exists in which everything in Three Cups of Tea occurred exactly as it was written, and his book is an account of THAT universe.

I can't believe anyone would give any credance whatsoever to those pathetic explanations.

The man has been caught red-handed, and is lining his own pocket to the tune of $30,000 per after dinner speech. It is a disgrace.

I'm calling you at, Mortensen, we know it's a scam!

Its disgusting to see the media, unable to answer their own calling, trying to destroy people who in fact do.

Ok, maybe Greg's accounts are not 100% accurate, and he visited Korphe in 94 vs. 93 or he built 3 schools vs. 11 in Kunar, or one of the schools is sitting empty, or he is making 30k per speech...what is the big deal?!

Why should this have any bearing on all the absolutely fantastic work he has done, is doing and will do? It is a shame that focus is on discrepencies, and not on what he has actually accomplished. Maybe he didn't accomplish as much as he claims and likes to boast, but still he has done much more than anybody who'll ever examine his work.

Mortensen doesn't respond to the most serious of the allegations: that more of the charity's money is spent in the States on his book tours and speaking engagements than on building and maintaining schools in South Asia, and that his charity gets none of the proceeds from these speech fees or book royalties. There are many, many possible explanations for the other allegations, but if he's using the lion's share of the charity's money to promote his own personal career as author/speaker, then the other details don't matter much.

I think this is a tempest in 3 Teacups and that questions need to be asked of 60 Minutes regarding their journalism tactics here - such as:
1) What was Mr. Krakauer compensated for his participation in this interview?
2) What is the name of the companion who 'told' Mr. Krakauer that Mr. Mortenson did not stumble into Korphe?
3) Why is it that other Charity watchdogs, like Charitynavigator.com rate CAI so highly based on their 2009 tax returns?
4) Is this REALLY the best that 60 Minutes can do with their budgets and resources? Pretty weak imho.

The facts are that CAI and Mr. Mortenson have helped educate thousands, teaching them to read,in far flung, remote and unpopular parts of the planet. I have seen him speak and read his books and will continue to support the efforts of the CAI. Bottom line - he has done a whole lot more than a whole lot of us to improve the lot of the human race. Including, I daresay, 60 Minutes.

He says that because someone else has a strange concept of time that that somehow changes the dates of when he did something? That makes absolutely no sense.

"Maybe he didn't accomplish as much as he claims and likes to boast, but still he has done much more than anybody who'll ever examine his work."

That's a really broad statement and a bit nonsensical. I can think of dozens of people that have done far more.

"It is important to know that Balti people have a completely different notion about time. Even the Balti language -- an archaic dialect of Tibetan -- has only a vague concept of tenses and time. For example, "now" can mean immediately or sometime over the course of a whole long season. The concept of past and future is rarely of concern. Often tenses are left out of discussion, although everyone knows what is implied. And if a person is a day or a week late or early it doesn't matter. The Balti consider the western notion of time quite amusing."

This line of defence is absurd and insulting for the people of Baltistan.

If there inaccuracies like the ones mentioned above, big deal!

Show me one other person with the courage and determination and self-sacrifice of Greg Mortensen to bring good and learning to the poor and to girls in Pakistan and Afghanistan. If you have never travelled in those places then you have no idea of the hardship it entails.

He is also correct that concepts of time are vastly different.

Further, the men in the above-mentioned photo might have had to deny involvement with certain groups.

What should be receiving attention is all the work and good that Greg does.

This is cheap attack and beneath the L.A. Times.

"[The Balti conception of time] defence is absurd and insulting for the people of Baltistan."

I think this comment just shows how blinkered most of us are by our own culture's conceptions of time. Lack of imagination is no substitute for a reasoned argument.

But as I said earlier, Mortensen's timeline is the least of his worries if he's been skimming the charity's money for his own personal use.

Like many people who believes in ‘Education is a right and not privilege’, I have also read both of Greg Mortenson’s books and watched Greg Mortenson - 60 Minutes which was aired on CBS News on April 17, 2011. Mortenson claims that he has educated over 60,000 of young children and mostly girls and built over 170 schools in Karakoram -the north west of Pakistan and the Wakhan valley of Afghanistan near the Russia and China border during the last 17 years.

Mortenson was intelligent enough to select Karakoram, the 2nd highest rocky mountain in the world, located on the Pakistan-Chinese border, beyond which it becomes an ocean of snow, where he envisioned writing his first book ‘Three Cups of Tea’. Being a native of the north west of Pakistan, I visited Karakoram Mountains along with a French Professor. I was amazed at the pride of the tall mountains and the scenic beauty of nature. At the same time, I found that it is harder for foreigners to come here because the government is charging them heavy amount and do not have any plan to encourage mountaineers and tourists to contribute to local economy. Our successive governments are busy investing their energies and money in wars instead of investing in education. Mortenson had selected Wakhan - a majestic alpine valley in the border region of Afghanistan and Tajikistan to educate children, build schools and to write his second book ‘Stones Into Schools’. This valley is located in the Pamir Mountains in Central Asia. Mortenson has selected areas where it was not harder for local and foreign media and researchers to attest such splendid education projects that Mortenson had started.

While reading Mortenson’s both well-written books, I had the view that they are based on fiction, mixed with half truth. He describes the harder geography of the area very beautifully and in a dramatic way. He presents his characters such as Haji Ali, Rasheed, Sarfaraz, Sadbar, and Parveen like Hollywood movies characters to impress his readers . His timely stories contributed to connect his education case of Afghan and Pakistani children with US people easily, because the US led western nations are investing blood of its sons and daughters in Afghanistan and Pakistan augmented by tax-payers’ dollars to bring peace in the region and security to its own people. He is also successful to connect his stories with the defeat of Communist Russia in Afghanistan on the hands of ‘Mujahideeen’, ‘Taliban’, and ‘Warlords’ led by Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, United state and supported by the entire Capitalist world including Communist China. He has beautifully engaged his readers to the anarchic situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan as he refers to the successive presidents and Al-Qaeda leaders to make his storey central to the current global unrest in the mountains of Central Asia.

What did not astonish me at all was that Greg Mortenson received Pakistan’s highest civil award, Sitara-e-Pakistan because leadership in the third world countries are always in search of foreigners to honour them with such awards to do ‘Realpolitik’. It also did not surprise me that he presented his wife and two children - Khyber and Amira; heroes of his work because the North American culture and society functions in an individualist context.
It was the most disturbing factor for me that Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the U.S. Armed Forces was chief guest at one of Mortenson’s school inauguration in Afghanistan. It is also strange that how Mortenson was inducted by the U.S. military to lecture and mentor young officers at the Air Force, Naval and West Point academies to share his philosophy of Afghan and Islamic culture with them while educating top -ranking Pentagon brass like General David Petraeus and Admiral EricLarson.
Being inhabitant of the North West of Pakistan and Afghanistan for over 35 years, it made me sad while reading Mortenson’s story that he was kidnapped by Taliban supporters in Waziristan, where he was held as a prisoner for eight days before his captors released him in a sudden and dramatic mystery with details known only to Mortenson till the 60 Minutes show was aired. The show found that four of the supposed abductors where ordinary Wazir Pashtun from FATA who were promised by Mortenson to build schools in the war-raged Waziristan FATA. One of the alleged was Mansoor Khan Masud, who runs FATA Research Centre, Islamabad and also writes for American Foreign Policy Magazine, who says that Mortenson was their guest. Mortenson has done a historic injustice to fabricate that Pashtuns are warriors and against education which is contrary to their customs such as Melmastia (hospitality.

Despite Mortenson’s successes of fame and fortune, he not only failed himself but other philanthropists as well, that one day an intuitive Steve Kroft of CBS will be able to find the whole truth and set the record straight and do some justice to the Pashtuns and Americans. I commend Mortenson for connecting westerners with Pakistani and Afghan children’s education. I wish he could have done it differently.

Jahan Zeb is Canadian Pashtun and perusing his MA degree in Community Studies. jahanzebca@gmail.com

While Mortenson has done great things establishing his schools, the fact that he took (probably unnecessary) poetic license with dates and embellished detention accounts, passing it off as kidnapping, is a questionable practice. In a supposedly factual story, taking these liberties and then trying to explain them in such an odd manner, especially knowing that his primary audience would be Western readers who have no such wrinkle in the time-space continuum, is deceitful. Krakauer took pains to correct inconsistencies and misconceptions in his factual books Into the Wild and Into Thin Air; I suggest that Mortenson do the same.

@Esa you said it perfectly. I've read his book 2 times now and have recommended it to others. It's sad how the media is trying to devalue the work he has done. I agree, okay he didn't build all the schools he said he did. First off, something we often forget, is that when things are in times of struggle, it takes time to become established. I believe in his mission and the great things he is willing to do for those children.

He, alone, is doing so much more than any of us can. Whether or not he lied about this or that, he still has inspired me and others to help those in need. The number one goal in creating change is to get people talking. Give them knowledge so they can start having conversations. Which will lead to action. He has done that, thank you Greg

It's crazy that this could be true. Mortenson was supposed to speak at my school today, an all-girls private school at that, but the event was cancelled last minute. We got an email Friday afternoon saying it was due to "unforseen circumstances," but I assumed it was something about travel or a need for increased security (I guess the latter is true). He was scheduled to speak at our all-school assembly, and then speak more casually/privately to select classes. It's a shame this is how things had to turn out and I hope he can stay safe through all of this. Even before 60 Minutes, our school had extensive security measures in place to protect Mortenson because some people didn't like the work he was said to be doing (building schools), so I can only imagine the security he must need right now.

I also was and to some extent am an admirer of Greg Mortenson, however, I am somewhat dissapointed in him now. His book "Three cups of Tea" was one of the more inspirational and beautiful books I have ever read. If he indeed embelished some things to captivate the reader, he succeeded and I don't have a problem with it. I find the story of his capture more disturbing because if untrue, he is portraying a people as terrorists when in fact they may not be, what an insult. Lastly, the use of the funds donated to the charity. There is not excuse for using the monies for travel and promotional expenses that benefited the sales of his books, which in return brought him royalties. Granted, the books and promotion of the schools are interlinked, never the less, it does look as if he filled his pockets a bit much. All in all told, he did more good than not. Be accountable for the money and I think people will be forgiving.

Yes, while we should not jump to conclusions, I say that if anything inaccurate was discovered about the book it should be talked about. History tells us that people love heros who save the world, and we see many heros nowadays who are "saving" the unfortunate. Though I admire the sacrifice and dedication and sincere caring heart of thousands and thousands who helped, I am also certain that many have abused this position. In all honesty I can say that I am not concerned at all about Mortenson. If these rumors are lies they will be proved as such and forgotten, but what concerns me is that some people might have been used to make the "savior" story more grandeur. I think this is something that should be talked about without any guilt of disrespect towards Mortenson.

From the ambush interview featured and cleverly edited to make Greg Mortenson look like a deer in the headlights in the promo to the gratuitous compliment in the conclusion, the 60 Minutes piece about Greg Mortenson is a powerful example of how cleaver editing and storytelling with a bias can damage the reputation and the work of a good man.

In my opinion, the mindset and tone of the 60 Minutes segment was get Greg Martenson, embarrass Greg Mortenson, punish Greg Mortenson, make Greg Mortenson out to be a villain, and imply he is a felon.

For me, the ambush interview said it all. It’s a technique that once resulted in a Supreme Court decision against CBS. It’s a technique that does not create confidence. It is a technique that may have theatrical and visual impact, but it does little where truth is concerned.

Watching the other two episodes broadcast by 60 Minutes on Sunday evening, I asked myself, “Why didn’t the producers of those segments ambush the three students accused of a crime? Why didn’t they ambush Bill Gates to find out if his former partner Paul Allen was telling the truth?”

Anyone who reads material readily available to anyone who does a little research knows that Greg Mortenson has denied all of these accusations. He and his board have answered all of the questions with reasonable and plausible answers. At least $20 million is in a trust fund to carry on his work. The CAI board asked its lawyer to review its financial practices before 60 Minutes began work on their story. The review found nothing to be illegal or unethical. In fact, it discovered benefits to the Central Asia Institute that far exceeded the benefits to Greg Mortenson. His fundraising supports school construction and educational campaigns.

Concerning his speaking engagements, he is doing what any sensible person would do. He is making good use of the limited window any author has to engage audiences, sell his book, create awareness of his mission and raise funds for the wonderful work he is doing.

You will also learn that he is suffering from serious heart problems.

Over the years, I have been an enthusiastic supporter of 60 Minutes. That will not change. People are human, even people with cameras, microphones and an international venue like 60 Minutes. They don’t hit home runs in terms of quality and balance with every episode. They are just as prone to mistakes and overzealousness as the rest of us.

In the case of 60 Minutes, when they get it right, it is a beautiful thing to watch. In point of fact, Leslie Stahl’s episodes Gospel for Teens were two of the best and most inspirational stories I have ever seen.

What I hope will change is the capricious role playing of prosecutor, judge, jury and executioner. Correspondents would be well advised to remember the Don Hewitt dictum, “Tell me a story.” They best serve their viewers by telling it fairly, telling it objectively, telling it honorable without histrionics and theatrical techniques.

This unfortunate story masquerading as objective journalism will make Greg Mortenson’s work much more difficult, but I believe he will prevail. He will continue to build schools, and those of us who believe in his important work will continue to support him.

Tony Mussari, Sr.
The Face of America Project


Absolute nonsense. So end justifies the means, even though those means are fabrications, lies -- er, false foundations? Using false means -- or worse, false narratives -- for self promotion and accomplishment?

Moral relativism at its finest. Perhaps you can take a moment to reflect on your faulty logic, ethics and all the ramifications that come from it.

Or, better yet -- read James Frey.

I've read Mr. Mortenson's books and have seen interviews on this gentleman only to come to the conclusion that he is a true humanitarian doing much needed work in the world. It is curious that the minor issues are taking on such large proportions.

The simple fact is he's lying and taking money from donors. CNN has a devastating interview with one of his supposed "kidnappers" that everyone should read. "'Three Cups of Tea': Served with a grain of salt?" The guy is a liar, taking money from people based on fiction, lying about the schools he's building, and apparently spending plenty of donor's money on himself.

Go to his wiki entry and look at the huge list of awards and honorary degrees that he's received in the last two or three years based on his false stories, and you will see how much of his time has been spent basking in the limelight, giving expensive talks and going to awards banquets. There are plenty of people doing good work that don't need to lie and who shun the limelight.

The issue is one of honesty. I read 3 Cups of Tea and was smitten with the man's personal courage, selflessness and courage. None of that was apparently true: he has made himself fabulously rich by eating out on stories that never happened.

Did he build some schools? Yes. But if you were bringing in $30m/year to your charity, then you could build 3 schools, too, and have $29.7m left over. That the schools he cited as having contributed to or having built are in fact either 1) not supported, 2) not built by CAI, and/or 3) non-existent is evidence of fraud.

I suspect many people that were inspired, whose children (like mine) gave freely from their savings, will want Greg Mortenson to face civil and criminal charges.

At minimum, Mortenson has now been unmasked and will no longer be able to revel in adulation.

"The Balti consider the western notion of time quite amusing."

I wonder if the group of named Balti people who he lied in print about being terrorists who kidnapped him also found it quite amusing?

If Greg Mortensen has done half the things he claims - he is still a hero, to make a difference in the life of one child in such extreme circumstances is what is important. In our digitalised world we hunger for real people doing meaningful things; Greg Mortensen has been that person for many people who have read his books. His books have made us think, made us want to do better, to do something to make the world a better place. It is never disputed that he in fact built a school in Korphe, or that he was indeed, held captive/kidnapped. Even to the casual reader Three cups of tea was highly dramatised which made it a great read- and why we all read it (thanks Relin you write much better than Greg). John K is wrong- the heart of the story is about an ordinary man who had the courage to make a difference.... Go and hunt real villains.

I've seen fellows like this before, they've discovered a soft spot for selling feel-good topics, the defenses are down, easy marks. A few children's entertainment types are like this. And they have to keep the doing-good activities going enough to continue to sell the product. A shrewd sociopathic approach, they are usually surrounded by defectors, like Mr. Mortenson is, who are are privy to it being a show.
His life sounds contrived, it reads like a J. Peterman story, something he is orchestrating and perhaps embellishing for the audience.
But that is all supposition and a queasy feeling, the proof is in the arithmetic, follow the money. He may just be an updated version of Jim and Tammy Faye Baker.

The 60 Minutes piece about Greg Mortenson should be investigated for shoddy journalistic practices.

It may be found that the faults of distortion and misleading fall very heavily upon the shoulders of "60 Minutes".

As for motives of undeserved or unwarranted financial gain, "60 Minutes" may someday find themselves wishing their piece about Mortenson had not made that implication.

One of the highlights of Three Cups of Tea is the quote from Jean Hoerni who, in explaining his support for Greg Mortenson's quest, said (paraphrasing), Americans support Tibet, etc., but won't donate to support Pakistan (ie, Muslims). Because of the way the media likes to slant against Pakistan, I find the zealousness with which the media and Jon Krakauer are going after Greg Mortenson quite interesting and very political. It's bothersome in the media when someone says anything remotely positive or admiring about the Pathans, and Pakistani peoples. It just doesn't jive with the current media blitz of negativity about the people there.

GREG IS NOT A LIER what ever he says is TRUE and your do have a right to be JELOUS of his success and good work he is doing. Way to go Greg we will ALWAYS LOVE YOU.
Your Pakistani Friend.....

J.D. Griffin is upset with Greg Mortensen for getting $30,000 per public appearance. In which he fights for the education of girls in countries where they are treated like dirt, and tries to spread the need for such education.

I can't wait, J.D. , for your next blast -- this time against Sarah Palin for picking up $100,000 per useless speech containing nothing, not even good grammar; blasting only shallowness , ignorance and hatred.

one fool of a contrubutor and boored and 60 minute people attacking this man. What exactly have you useless people done to help the world? and why isnt Madonna and Oprah being attacked on 60 minutes over their debacles. We can see thru your lies and all it does it make your usless idiots more exposed. Your fear people that are righteous and protect the scum like oprah and madonna.

The 60 Minutes piece raises a lot of questions and provides zero answers so I will remain open minded regarding the entire subject for now. However, I might call into question the journalistic integrity of both CBS and Jon Krakauer because I do not recall either mentioning that Krakauer has a book coming out - "Three cups of deceit - How humanitarian Greg Mortenson lost his way" - in two days, on Deepwater Horizon/MSC252 Day.

If there's something humans love more than a hero, it's a hero with clay feet. We somehow love that feeling of "schadenfreude" when we think someone mighty has fallen. I think it makes us feel better about our own lives, and the fact that most of us could be doing much, much more to help others than we actually do.

I read Mortenson's and CAI's responses to the questions asked of them by 60 Minutes (the full answers, not the "sampling" printed by the LA Times), and found them reasonable. Yes, Mortenson gets paid a lot for giving a talk now, BECAUSE of what the amazing things he has done to promote girls' education in Pakistan and Afghanistan. And, the fact remains that CAI's donations come, in great part, due to Mortenson's stories and name recognition.

Are there accounting inconsistencies, etc. in CAI? According to their response, they had an independent investigation done (PRIOR to 60 Minutes' investigation), and nothing of substance was found.

It also does seem strange to me that many of the accusations asserted by 60 Minutes came from what is basically hearsay by a few individuals in Pakistan and Afghanistan. The hearsay may be true, but I must say that this is quite a low form of "journalism" that doesn't seem to befit the standards 60 Minutes usually upholds.

Finally--for those people who have read Three Cups of Tea, David Relin acknowledges in the text that they were never able to completely pin down the exact chronological order of events. Also noted in the book: Mortenson gave Relin a list of his "enemies" and their contact information, and freely invited Relin to talk to all of them. These things are not "news" except to people who are apparently trying to make a mountain out of a molehill.

I do not think Mortenson is a "perfect" individual (nor do I think that Ghandi, MLK, Jr., JFK, Jesus of Nazareth, Mother Theresa, or any other great human you care to name is "perfect"). But I will bet my money on people like Mortenson to affect major, positive changes in the world. I will continue to support CAI's work.

Paula said

"It is never disputed... or that he was indeed, held captive/kidnapped. "

That's the whole point, he wasn't. It was a lie.

For God's sake what a bunch of garbage! Some of you are trying him before he is even charged with anyhting How do you know that 60 Minutes is accurate? Just because you saw it on TV? 60 Minutes is nothing more than a Television show meant to entertain , if that is what you can call it. Greg Mortenson has done a fabulous job for a cause he believes in and has figured out a way to do. He doesn't need a bunch of so called experts all with their own agenda to tell him how to do it. That often causes dissention. He deserves time for his own rebuttal. If you don't like how he has used the money, then donate to another cause--maybe one where the CEO gets $1,000,000 or money in salary/perks.

Seems like an awful lot of people on here who read his books and gave him money, who now have their feelings hurt and can't bear the thought that he's a fraud. When you write two books based on fabrications, say you opened a bunch of schools when you didn't, leave your beneficiaries in Pakistan disgruntled, and then skim off the donations in the US while living it up, then you're a fraud, plain and simple.

The fact that he opened three schools and went on a bunch of speaking tours is not that impressive. There are people who have built dozens of schools, installed hundreds of wells, opened dozens of hospitals, all without lying to the public, fraudulently raising money, lying about their accomplishments, and living it up on $30,000 speaking engagements and award banquets.

$30 million to build three schools in rural asia? Sounds like a major scam to me

Although it's good work on his part, it really doesn't change anything in Pakistan or Afghanistan in the big picture. They have huge populations and are still patriarchal and repressive against women and girls, especially in rural areas, despite any of this kind of work from outsiders. In reality it may do more harm than good, since it legitimizes the governments there and gives them a chance to pose for photo ops and award ceremonies.

The $30 million would have been better spent undertaking a public information campaign to put pressure on the governments of Pakistan and Afghanistan to make systemic changes that will benefit women and girls throughout those societies for the long term.

Mother Teresa spent her time giving direct care, which is laudable, but also campaigning against birth control and family planning, and telling poor sick Indians to accept their poverty, rather than using her stature and influence to work for systemic changes that might have changed conditions for the poor and sick in India for the long term. As a result she helped a lot of people but didn't really change anything in India, and may have retarded progress. The same is true with Mortenson. These systemic issues are big. They're decided by governments, the UN, etc. not by independent non-profit projects carried out by foreigners. If you want to make long lasting changes you have to change the system.


In some ways the book is not about education or the Baltis, rather it is about America and her position/status/image in the world today. I think the agenda of the book is resurrection or celebration of good character of American values and by default the inherent goodness of American power (Mortenson is presented as the real American hero, p. 301). The book is remarkable in its a-historicity. The war on terror that looms in the background is never problematized or even discussed. The problem of America’s un-popularity is presented as a problem of mere misunderstanding, and hence representations.

The military and religious background of Mortenson, the hero, is of significance. Plus the private life of Mortenson is presented as an affirmation of American values of family life and hard work; core capitalist values. Added to this is the call for duty, whose source or the origin is the social values entrenched in military and missionary culture. Thus it’s a back-handed way of defense of mainstream American values.

The question is why did the book become such a hit? Its popularity, as I understand, is unprecedented. The reason, as the authors state (p 301) is because today ‘America is a deeply divided nation’ over how to conduct the war on terror. Moreover domestic issues like corporate greed, violence and effects of unbridled capitalism has made Americans question these values. TCT is presented as a reply to these questions. This theme of self-interrogation, not critical self interrogation, rather shallow and meaningless self-interrogation at the individual level, as conducted throughout the book by Mortenson, has caught the attention of the nation. Do we have any such examples from colonial era? I don’t know. (Notice how Nicholas Kristoff writes at doing foreign aid DYI. Make people feel good, development has become like environment that larger structural issues are ignored and obfuscated and micro-structural level issues are focused upon).

Usually when empires had taken some beatings and are feeling bruised they go into this pseudo-philosophical debate on the self. Likewise the failure of American military power to curb ‘Islamic terrorism’ has an impact on this discourse of self-interrogation.

Most of details in the book are either surprisingly accurate or totally wrong. I know some of the characters in the book and I think individual characters are very accurate. It’s the community actions which are made up. I think many ‘quasi-spiritual’ scenes in the book are made up: misrepresented. The romanticization is necessary for the audience, so is the affinity to the Taliban. Baltis are as far from Talibans as anyone. I think the real question is not the misrepresentations in/of the book but the popularity of the book in America and Pakistan today.

It would have been more credible if 60 minutes had offered the names of those questioning CAI and Greg Mortenson, why is Jon Krakauer coming forward now and why should we believe the words of AIP? CAI would probably not exist without the efforts of Mortenson and the money dedicated to his travel, speaking and book engagements makes perfect sense as related to the success of this organization. This is an international non-profit. Also non-profits are allowed to pay salaries and make money. Go to the CAI website and review their financials. A large percentage of their money is kept in a CD and 91% of their contributions come from individuals. This is a witch hunt with much ado about nothing. Mortenson is doing tremendous work and 3 Cups of Tea is an inspiring story as more people should follow his lead.

SAM said


He didn't, he built three, with $30 million

anyone who've read his books can see the pictures of him, his wife and daughter in that part of the world.

if it is all a story...is it the kind of story like the easter bunny/santa claus, etc that makes people kinder and better? or is it the story that angers and puts bitterness in people? seems to me greg's is the former and 60 minutes is the latter.

the truth is never absolute. and anyone who does not have the grains of salt with everything probably watches 60 minutes too frequently.

I applaud Mr. Mortenson for his efforts to build schools, but something sounds off. Say what you will about Krakauer and the Middle Eastern men in the 60 Minutes story, but again, something just doesn't feel right. As they say, there's two sides to every story, and then the truth.

If he believes he did everything right, why didn't he give a more justified reason for saying no to 60 Minutes in his statements, or why didn't he answer CBS' calls for comment? He said in his statements that 60 Minutes ambushed him and he felt like it wouldn't be fair and balanced. Why doesn't he ask CBS or another news organization (apart from his hometown newspaper the Bozeman Daily Chronicle, which seems a little bit biased toward Mortenson in one of the articles I read on this issue) to set up an interview now? Is he that scared of the media? Further, how come CAI/Mortenson only responded when the piece was about to air?

What I am saying is that I applaud Mortenson for his efforts, but he seems to be stretching the truth. Granted, 60 Minutes may not have the full story, but Mortenson's hands may have blood on them too.

The statement that he gets $30,000 per engagement has just got to be wrong. I heard him speak at a small town, the tickets were $10.00 apiece and there could not possibly have been 3,000 people there. Yes, we bought books, but he also freely gave away several while I stood in line for autographs. I think there is some serious motives behind these allegations, for example, why, after all these years? Why now?? could it possibly have something to do with the government and our "war" in Afganistan? Just because it made 60 Minutes does not mean it is true, it only means it is something people will look at.

One problem is that the non-profit is spending $1.5 + million a year on Greg Mortenson's travel expenses so that he can earn large fees on speaking engagements and further promote his books. If I were donating to this non-profit, I would not be happy about this.

I am shocked that 60 minutes did not have other matters to discuss in the given state of affairs in this country. Greg Mortenson, really. Interesting timing, holy week. Remember, the people of Jesus' time crucified him. Isn't that what 60 minutes just did to Greg?

I am amazed at how quickly some of the idiots (and I'm being kind) commenting here can jump to a conclusion based on a '60 Minutes' piece -- or for that matter, on ANY single piece of journalism.

Consider the possibility of doing a little research. Dig a little. Try some 'critical thinking'. It might be a bit of work for you to get up and actually turn that TV off, but hey, give it a shot ....

I am very disappointed in the latest addition of 60 minutes, which aired on 4/17/11. I have been a long time fan of the show, but the outright defamation of character which was prevalent in both the Bill Gates story and the Greg Mortenson story was disturbing (to say the least). Two leading philanthropists, who are doing their best to better the world were blatantly attacked on 60 minutes. While there may be slight alterations to Mr. Mortenson's story (due most probably to the need for brevity when covering such a long period of time), this does not make what he does accomplish in the region any less important nor valuable. The fact that schools, which he built are empty is easily explained by the fact that the region has been tormented by earthquakes, floods, and war which displace people and may have caused empty schools. These possibilities were not discussed in the story. The fact that not all money can be accounted for is understandable when dealing in a part of the world that does not run on ATM machines and most of the time does not find it necessary to write receipts. (I know first hand since I lived in Pakistan for 6 years.) This was not brought out by the report either. If he is taking all of the money, where is the mansion, the ten cars, the proof? Lastly, the report brushed over the good the CAI is doing which is the absolute key to the institution's existence. Nor did you try to compare what other organizations have done in the remotest parts of Pakistan (because that might make him look good). This report was irresponsible and damaging to a person and an organization, which are trying to make a difference in the world. I am truly disappointed!

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