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    Three Cups of Bitter Tea: One Man’s Mission to Deceive the World…One Lie at a Time

    The recent 60 Minutes expose on Greg Mortenson, co-author of Three Cups of Tea and famous philanthropist, provides a damning glimpse into Mortenson’s fabricated world.

    Some of the schools he claims to have started don’t exist; others stand empty or house spinach. Some of the schools that do exist claim they haven’t received a penny of funding in years.

    Mortenson billed his charity in one year for almost $2 million in travel and book tour/advertising expenses, even though the charity receives no royalties from his works. Some of those fees consisted of private jet flights. Pennies for schools but private jets for authors. More money was spent on domestic “outreach” expenses–i.e. book tours than on building and operating schools in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

    If allegations are to be believed, his premise for deciding to open schools in Afghanistan is completely fabricated. I.e., he never stumbled into a small village after failing to climb K2, was never nursed back to health by the villagers, never vowed to return to fulfill his promise to a young girl that he would build her village a school.

    In full disclosure, I started reading Three Cups of Tea years ago and could not get into it at all, so I read only one chapter. I never read his second book, either. As a result, all the parts of his books that are being targeted as lies are unfamiliar to me. Apparently Mortenson describes being kidnapped by the Taliban, but upon further investigation 60 Minutes reveals that the people wielding AK-47s next to him in a published photo were his unofficial body guards, not his kidnappers, according to one of the so-called kidnappers.

    Maybe Mortenson should team up with James Frey (author of A Million Little Pieces, also discovered to be a grossly exaggerated memoir) so that the two liars can shed some light on what motivates a person to lie and then publish lies and then promote those lies over and over to the public and then deny the lies when the truth rears its ugly little fact-finding head.

    What is incredible about this is that no one blew the whistle for years! How is it that his books and charity could become such a widespread sensation with no accountability? What does that say about the information that travels between Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the United States?


    Comment from Kerry
    Time April 25, 2011 at 3:18 am

    I am so angry about this revelation! I had a very difficult time getting through the book due to the density of description and lack of interesting style. I did finish the book though because I was compelled to know the entire story; after all, it combined two of my biggest interests: philanthropy and education. I found the section where he was kidnapped by the Taliban to be the most interesting and incredible. I guess I’m not totally shocked that the section is untrue. I want my time and money back! Worst of all, Mortenson has made an incredible amount of money and apparently lives a fabulous jetsetting lifestyle and isn’t even supporting the charities he writes about in the book. Shame on him!
    I don’t know how reasonable it is to expect publishers to fact check non-fiction books they publish- especially ones that would seem to be as difficult and likely expensive to check as Three Cups of Tea seems it would be, but I think there should be some accountability somewhere. The integrity of the genre is at stake.

    Comment from Eugene
    Time April 25, 2011 at 7:53 am

    Unbelievable. I actually bought his book for a friend who is into philanthropy. Good job 60 Minutes for exposing him.

    Comment from admin
    Time April 26, 2011 at 7:01 am

    It’s very disappointing. I recently read Jon Krakauer’s expose of Mortenson and his charity, and the allegations of wrongdoing are extensive. Mortenson essentially treated his charity like a limitless personal bank account, where he wrote off incredibly expensive book costs (chartered flights, $100,000 ads, etc.) without sharing his royalties/earnings with the charity. Krakauer even claims that Mortenson used some of the “pennies” donated by school children to buy copies of his book. Mortenson allegedly had his charity buy large numbers of his books–all at the retail rather than resale cost–which inflated his sales numbers, hoisted him onto the bestseller list, and personally profited him because you make royalties on books purchased at retail rates.

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