18 April 2011

Greg Mortenson, the James Frey of 2011?

"60 Minutes" is alleging that Greg Mortenson, author of THREE CUPS OF TEA, made up the central event of the book in which he (spoiler) is rescued from a K2 climbing attempt by an Afghan village where he will later come back to build a school. (I haven't actually read the book yet so if that summary is incorrect, feel free to reword.) He also claimed he was kidnapped by the Taliban which is being questionedThe L.A. Times has none other than Jon Krakauer, identified as a "former donor" to Mortenson's charity, calling the book "a lie."

There are also (arguably more serious) complaints that Mortenson's nonprofit, the Central Asia Institute, is is mismanaged and spending more money to promote itself domestically than actually building schools abroad as is its mission, although it currently gets 4 stars on Charity Navigator. Also charged, that Mortenson draws from the nonprofit to pay for book-related expenses, but isn't putting his proceeds from speaking engagements or book royalties back into it. (This is all from the "60 Minutes" transcript which I now cannot stop reading.) Oh, and of the 30 schools (out of 141) CBS visited that Mortenson was claiming to give money to, half were empty or not receiving any support.

This could be even worse than the Frey thing in my eyes because of the damage done to both the beneficiaries of the charity (who may or may not have gotten what they promised) and to the image of nonprofits as a whole (giving any prospective donors doubts). So disheartening.


jess s said...

this is disgusting. i hope this is cleared up soon. also, i really SUFFERED reading 3 cups of tea (although his second book was better, the first was just Bad), and if I suffered for an un-worthy cause, I am even more angry.

Ellen said...

You have every right to be angry. I was putting its reading off for no particular reason, and now I don't think I will go down that road at all (ironically, same thing happened with A MILLION LITTLE PIECES; maybe I have a gut BS detector?)

Elizabeth said...

How sad.