There will always be at least one who will not drink the Kool-Aid, or, in this case, the three cups of tea.
In this case, it was CBS investigative reporter Steve Kroft, who peeled away the accolades and uncovered yet another unreliable memoir.
Kroft’s intro was the dropped shoe that was heard around the literary world: “We found there are serious questions about how millions of dollars have been spent, whether Mortenson is personally benefiting, and whether some of the most dramatic and inspiring stories in his books are even true.”
The book Three Cups of Tea, allegedly traces co-author Greg Mortenson’s journey as he builds a school for children in Afghanistan. Three Cups of Tea has dominated the New York Times best-seller lists for three years, and is required reading for military deployed in Afghanistan.
However, if the eagle-eyed Kroft’s scathing report is to believed (and it should be) Three Cups of Tea is a great work of fiction.
Mortenson is A-list in literary and philanthropy circles, as his official bio touts that he is the co-founder of the nonprofit Central Asia Institute www.ikat.org, founder of Pennies For Peace and co-author and author of the best-seller Stones into Schools.
Kroft’s investigation discovered that the Central Asia Institute chairty isn’t sending funds the way it appears to be, and for the most part, is used to finance Mortenson’s elaborate book tour. Kroft spoke with American Institute of Philanthropy president Daniel Borochoff, who looked at the charity’s financial statement ($1.5 million in advertising for the book and $1.3 million in travel expenses) and concluded that most of the money was not helping the kids, but “sounds like a book tour to me.”
Well, President Obama helped to finance that book tour, as he donated $100,000 of his Nobel Peace Prize money to Mortenson’s charity.
Kroft’s investigation included an interview with best-selling author Jon Krakauer, who says point blank, “It’s a beautiful story, and it’s a lie.”
How bad is the deception? Well, Mortenson tells of Afghan captors who held him hostage, when they were tour guides hired to protect him in the region. This alone has reset the clock on trust, for sure.
In 2009, Mortenson received Pakistan’s highest civil award, Sitara-e-Pakistan (“Star of Pakistan”) for his humanitarian service.
Mortenson refused to speak to the reporter because he is heading into heart surgery to repair a small hole, according to a statement.
Mortenson’s camp may want to arrange that official statement of denial soon, as the author was nominated by several bipartisan congressional representatives for the Nobel Peace Prize this year.