Greg Mortenson, the once-acclaimed author of the bestselling book Three Cups of Tea, is somewhat less than acclaimed these days, as you probably have heard. Mortenson's book has been dubbed a fraud---a "fabrication"---and he himself has come under endless amounts of criticism of late.
If you haven't heard of Three Cups of Tea, or are unfamiliar with the controversy, allow me to update you:
“Three Cups of Tea” was released in 2006 and sold more than 3 million copies. That notoriety helped Mortenson grow the Central Asia Institute by generating more than $50 million in donations, Krakauer said.
According to the charity’s website, it has “successfully established over 170 schools” and helped educate over 68,000 students, with an emphasis on girls’ education.
Krakauer, author of “Into the Wild,” cast doubt on Mortenson’s story of being lost in 1993 while mountain climbing in rural Pakistan and stumbling upon the village of Korphe, where the residents helped him recuperate and he promised to build a school. Krakauer called it a “myth.”
“Mortenson has lied about the noble deeds he has done, the risks he has taken, the people he has met, the number of schools he has built,“ Krakauer wrote in the recently published ”Three Cups of Deceit.”
Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times sums up the recent controversy over the book:
And now his life’s work is tottering after a “60 Minutes” exposé and an online booklet by Jon Krakauer, a onetime supporter. Greg is accused of many offenses: misstating how he got started building schools; lying about a dramatic kidnapping; exaggerating how many schools he has built and operates; and using his charity, the Central Asia Institute, “as his personal A.T.M.” The attorney general of Montana, where his charity is based, has opened an inquiry into the allegations.
Responding to this, Chris Barrett of KBC Media, a public relations firm, e-mailed The Blaze this week. Barrett sent us a recently digitized video clip from Mortenson's first global interview on CNN International, from 2003. KBC Media "was the first group working with Greg Mortenson in his efforts to take his story to a national and international level," Barrett tells us.
Barrett recalls his experience working with Mortenson back in those days, saying, "It just seems odd this would all be fabricated so early on in his quest. He was one of the nicest and sincere people I have had the opportunity to work and speak with."
More from Barrett:
We garnered Greg his first global interview on CNN International in July of 2003. I sat with Greg in Washington, DC before that appearance and he talked to me for over an hour telling us all of his stories from getting turned down from almost every celebrity he asked for donations from except a single $100 donation from Tom Brokaw to being held hostage for eight days then befriending his captors. In fact, he discussed with me personally how it takes three cups of tea to gain trust within their culture. This was years before he even knew he was going to write his book Three Cups of Tea.
It just seems odd this would all be fabricated so early on in his quest. He was one of the nicest and sincere people I have had the opportunity to work and speak with. He even invited me on a trip to Afghanistan, but at the time I had to turn it down. We took Greg on as a client because he had an amazing mission to share with the world and a lot of good to do. We thought by assisting with the national and international PR that we would be able to do our part to help the children of Afghanistan and Pakistan. This all seemed very genuine at the time we worked with Greg. I personally will feel disheartened if it turns out to be a fabrication.
Here is the CNN International clip: