Friday, April 15, 2011

Very troubling reports about "Three Cups of Tea"

Sunday night, "60 Minutes" will air a report about Greg Mortenson's Three Cups of Tea book and the Central Asia Institute, alleging that many of the things in the book are untrue. I read Three Cups of Tea back in 2006, before it was very well known. The (Jewish) coauthor, David Relin, came to our church to speak to an assembled audience of Christians and Muslims.

Mike gave me Stones into Schools not too long ago, but I haven't read it yet. Now I don't think I can bring myself to read it. Children all over the world have cracked their piggy banks to donate to Mortenson's charity, Pennies for Peace.

According to the report, the Central Asia Institute spent $1.7 million on "book-related expenses" in 2009, more than it spent on building schools. Apparently the organization has issued only one audited financial statement in the 14 years it's been in existence. A former board member was described as saying that Mortenson uses the Central Asia Institute as his own private ATM.

Writer Jon Krakauer, a former donor to the Central Asia Institute, began digging into Mortenson's stories and discovered the inaccuracies. Ironic, because Krakauer, too, has been accused of inaccuracies. Mortenson defends his work but does not give any details. He is scheduled to receive a $100K award from the University of Louisville in September.

The reports do not dispute that Mortenson has built schools for girls in the Middle East, but it calls into question the truth of many of Mortenson's stories, such as being kidnapped by the Taliban and wandering into a village after his failed ascent of K2.

I am so disappointed. And for the sake of truth and justice throughout the world, I pray that the report is wrong. Doesn't sound very hopeful though.


  1. This is upsetting and I hope unfounded! My school collects pennies for this organization every year. That is very sad when you imagine little three, four and five year-olds diligently collecting their coins and counting them out on the carpet. Ugh.

  2. Yes, me too Katie. I am very upset by this.