Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Oh How I Love My Tea!

Yesterday I read about a recent "scandal" involving Three Cups of Tea author Greg Mortenson.  I was so shocked to be reading what I was reading - that this book was all a lie?!  I absolutely loved this book! 

(If you've never read the book and are interested in what it's about, please check out my post here.)

In a very big summation of several articles and the video, CBS/60 Minutes is alleging that a lot of what Mortenson says in his book is untrue and/or highly exaggerated.  For example, CBS claims he never got lost on his hike up K2  (which is what ultimately lead him to writing the book) and that he subsequently never built the schools, or at least not as many schools as he claimed to have built.  CBS also managed to interview some people who appeared in photos in his book.  One such photo was a picture of "Taliban" men who captured him and held him hostage for several days.  When CBS asked one of the men in that photo if he was a member of the Taliban, he denied it.  (Though, wouldn't you deny if it you were a member of a highly controversial organization?  Just sayin'!) Also, CBS, in conjunction with the American Institute of Philanthropy, closely scrutinized the Central Asia Institute's financial statements and deduced that much of the money raised for the building of schools in the Middle East had been used to fund Mortenson's travels within the U.S. in order to promote his book and raise additional funds for CAI.  You can find the full report/video on 60 Minutes.

Yesterday, I also received an email from Greg Mortenson talking about this breaking news on his popular book.  (I get emails from him because I donated to his organization, the Central Asia Institute). Here is some of what he said:

"The Board of Directors and I made the very difficult decision to not engage with "60 Minutes" on camera, after they attempted an eleventh hour aggressive approach to reach me, including an ambush in front of children at a book signing at a community service leadership convention in Atlanta. It was clear that the program's disrespectful approach would not result in a fair, balanced or objective representation of our work, my books or our vital mission. We also turned down a last minute request for an interview with Jon Krakauer.

     The "60 Minutes" program may appear to ask simple questions, but the answers are often complex, not easily encapsulated in 10-second sound bites."
Greg later went on to say that he is currently suffering from a hole in his heart, and is about to undergo surgery, and this also contributed to his reason for not speaking on camera.

While CBS does make some compelling arguments, I don't want to believe them.  In regard to the amount of money spent on travel expenditures for raising money for CAI, and how more money was spent doing that than building schools, I think it's somewhat justifiable.  "You have to spend money to make money".  You have to spend money to promote this organization (CAI) and awareness of what it does in order to raise money in order to build these schools.  Also, it says in the book numerous times, which I'm sure is very true, that the cost of building a school over there is FAR less than what it would be to build a school in the U.S.

What do you think about all of this?  Do you think Greg is fudging the numbers for his own benefit, or do you think that this could be a case of jealousy - haters of Greg and his mission and being jealous/angry/some-other-emotion about his success and is trying to take him down?

1 comment:

  1. Hello - I am a journalist interested in speaking to you about your reaction to the revelations about "Three Cups" from your point of view as a reader and a donor.. Please contact me at tfitzsimons at gmail dot com if you have a spare moment! Thank you so much!


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