I was moved by Greg Mortenson’s memoir Three Cups of Tea, which tells the story of the author’s personal involvement in building schools for children in Pakistan and Afghanistan. His personal attachment to the region and his passion for his mission led many to donate funds to his charitable organization “Central Asian Institute” (CAE)—the donor list includes Barack Obama and Rima Al Sabab (who is the wife of the Kuwaiti ambassador to the US). Almost everyone believed that Greg Mortenson’s charity was honest; unfortunately, a recent “60 Minutes” episode questioned CAE and its use of the funds donated to the charitable organization.
The “60 Minutes” episode seems like it is a personal indictment of Greg Mortsenson; the television episode that aired states that a majority of the funds that were used by Greg Mortenson’s charity CAE were only spent on promoting his book. Greg Mortenson is denying the accusations and did NOT appear on the damning episode of “60 Minutes.” His publisher, however, plans to review the criticisms in further detail and has called the allegations “serious.”
“60 Minutes” alleges that parts of Three Cups of Tea are undocumented and unproveable. Jon Krakauer, the author of Into the Wild and many other outdoor books, was interviewed by “60 Minutes” and alleges that Greg Mortenson’s primary story in Three Cups of Tea—that he was rescued after a failed summit attempt—is false. Jon Krakauer’s statement was confirmed by “60 Minutes” who went to the same village where Greg Mortenson was allegedly brought back to health and found out that Greg Mortenson was not telling the truth about his rescue. “60 Minutes” also alleges that Greg Mortenson’s kidnapping was falsified by the author; the television show did some background checking in the region and is now alleging that Greg Mortenson was never kidnapped.
Of course, the more serious allegations surrounding Greg Mortenson are that his charity has not represented itself correctly in terms of how the money donated to the charity is spent. More money is, for example, spent on Greg Mortenson’s travel expenses to speak about the importance of building schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan than it is actually spent building schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan.
The “60 Minutes” episode also states that it is difficult to tell how much has been spent on building actual schools and questions whether or not the IRS tax records are correct. In addition, the show claims that it is questionable how many of the “schools” are now being used to educate the youth of Pakistan and Afghanistan.