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Greg Mortenson: Three cups to the wind?

Three Cups of Tea

Three Cups of Tea

Greg Mortenson, the celebrated author of Three Cups of Tea who has been perhaps the world’s leading advocate for girl’s education in Pakistan and Afghanistan, is facing some serious allegations of both literary and financial wrongdoings.

On Sunday’s CBS News 60 Minutes, Mortenson is accused of fabricating key parts of his story, using a high proportion of the funds raised by his philanthropy for personal benefit and misleading donors.

Fellow mountain climber and writer Jon Krakauer, who was one of the early donors and supporters of Mortenson’s Central Asia Institute, is interviewed on the TV news show and says of the story told in Three Cups of Tea that inspired the philanthropy:

“It’s a beautiful story and it’s a lie.”

Mortenson, who refused to be interviewed by 60 Minutes, sent out an email to supporters and staff:

“As those of you who know me and have supported my work over the years will recognize, the story being framed by ’60 Minutes’ to air in a few hours today — as far as we can tell — paints a distorted picture using inaccurate information, innuendo and a microscopic focus on one year’s (2009) IRS 990 financial, and a few points in the book ‘Three Cups of Tea’ that occurred almost 18 years ago.”

His Institute’s website has several responses to the 60 Minutes piece, including this response from the board of directors in which they respond in detail to the claims made against Mortenson.

The New York Times has a story that tends to focus largely on the allegations of literary fabrications or distortions.

The Bozeman Daily Chronicle (where Mortenson lives and his philanthropy is based) has a story based on one of the few interviews Mortenson has given responding to the allegations.

ABC News has a story that leads with Mortenson’s rebuttal of the 60 Minutes’ claims.

Here is a link to the video of the 60 Minutes interview.


About Author

Tom Paulson

Tom Paulson is founder and lead journalist at Humanosphere. Prior to operating this online news site, he reported on science,  medicine, health policy, aid and development for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Contact him at tom[at] or follow him on Twitter @tompaulson.