The book “Three Cups of Tea” is causing a stir.
According to CBS News, author Greg Mortenson reportedly fabricated and exaggerated stories in the non-fiction work that inspired Americans to support his non-profit organization, the Central Asia Institute (CAI), which promotes education in remote parts of Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Mortenson’s book, which describes his 84-day shower-less spell in the Middle East, alleged Taliban kidnapping and experiences in a tiny village called Korphe, sold more than 4 million copies and is required reading for U.S. military men heading for Afghanistan.
But Jon Krakauer, an early booster of Mortenson and author of “Into The Wild,” says “Three Cups of Tea” is a work of fiction.
“It’s a beautiful story, and it’s a lie,” Krakauer said, adding that Mortenson “absolutely” did not stumble into Korphe in a weakened state.
When CBS’s Steve Kroft asked, “Nobody helped [Mortenson] out. And nursed him back to health,” Krakauer responded, “Absolutely not. I have spoken to one of his companions, a close friend, who hiked out from K2 with him and this companion said Greg never heard of Korphe til a year later.”
Kroft said he conducted interviews with men who denied being in the Taliban and denied capturing Mortenson, calling into question the author’s claim of being captured. It’s unclear whether all or some of Mortenson’s recollections are accurate. Last fall, CBS started investigating complaints from former donors, board members, staffers and charity watchdogs about Mortenson and how he manages his organization. CBS claims “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.”
Mortenson reportedly declined to comment for “60 Minutes,” but issued a statement to the Bozeman Daily Chronicle. Mortenson denied most of the CBS segment’s allegations, but acknowledged the Korphe story was “a compressed version of events.”
“I stand by the information conveyed in my book,” Mortenson wrote in a statement, adding, “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.”
According to CBS, Mortenson typically attracts crowds of thousands of attendees and earns $30,000 per engagement.