Greg Mortenson is a former mountaineer, best-selling author, humanitarian, and philanthropist. His non-profit organization, the Central Asia Institute (CAI), is committed to supporting education, especially for girls, in rural areas of Pakistan and Afghanistan, and according to its web site, has instituted more than 140 schools there.
Due to his understanding of the sensitive areas in these countries, Washington think tanks such as the Aspen Institute regularly invite him to speak. Top American generals such as David Petraeus and Stanley McChrystal ardently seek Mortenson’s advice and depend on him to set up meetings between the U.S. military and village elders of Pakistan.
Mortenson brings an inspirational message built around a story that forms the foundation of his best-selling book, ‘Three Cups of Tea’. This book gives an account of how, in 1993, he tried and failed to reach the peak of K2, the world's second tallest mountain located in Pakistan, as a tribute to his dead sister, how he got lost and separated from his group on the descent, how he was kidnapped by pro-Taliban fighters and escaped and stumbled into a tiny village called Korphe.
Mortenson tells how he discovered 84 children in the back of the village writing their school lessons with sticks in the dust. “And when a young girl named Chocho came up to me and said, “‘Can you help us build a school?’ I made a rash promise that day and I said, "‘I promise I'll help build a school."’ Little did I know it would change my life forever” he said.
About the kidnapping incident Mortenson stated that the men had “detained” him for eight days and kept his money and his passport. He insisted that at the time, “I thought it best to befriend the people detaining me."
President Obama was so smitten by the stories in his book that he donated $100,000 to the group from the proceeds of his Nobel Prize. ‘Three Cups of Tea’ has sold more than four million copies and is required reading for U.S. servicemen bound for Afghanistan.
Greg Mortenson has become a publishing phenomenon and sought-after speaker on the lecture circuit, where he has attained a cult-like status. He regularly draws crowds of several thousand people at $30,000 per engagement.
Mortenson has received numerous honors, including the Sitara-e-Pakistan (Star of Pakistan), a civilian award rarely given to foreigners.
It's a powerful and heart-warming tale that has motivated millions of people to buy his book and contribute nearly $60 million to his charity.
Until Sunday night, Mortenson was considered an international hero. That is until Jon Krakauer, one of Mortenson's earliest backers, who donated $75,000 to his non-profit organization, told ’60 Minutes’, “It’s a beautiful story, and It's A Lie!”
This is what he said in an interview:
Interviewer: Did he stumble into this village weak in a weakened state?
Krakauer: Absolutely not.
Interviewer: Nobody helped him out? And nursed him back to health?
Krakauer: Absolutely not. I have spoken to one of his companions, a close friend, who hiked out from K2 with him and this companion said Greg never heard of Korphe till a year later.
Concerning his alleged kidnapping it was reported that the said ‘kidnappers’, appeared in a picture with Mortenson, were tracked down and they denied abducting him or being members of the Taliban. The men he identified as Taliban kidnappers were actually his own tour guides. One man charged the author's version was "totally false," a tale told "to sell his book!"
Mahsud, a local from the village Korphe, showed a photo of Mortenson that was taken that July. The picture shows Mortenson, smiling, standing shoulder to shoulder with eight other men. They are all armed with AK-47s. So is Mortenson!
He too is cradling an AK-47 with a huge 75-round magazine attached. “He claims we are all kidnappers,” says Mahsud. “You can clearly see this man is not a frightened, kidnapped man, but a very happy one. Mortenson’s claim that he was forced to pick up copy of the Quran, do ablutions and promise to convert to Islam is false too".
The "60 Minutes" report alleged that several schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan that Mortenson's Central Asia Institute is said to have founded either do not exist or were built by someone else, or not receiving support at all!
It has been reported that half a dozen staffers and board members have left Mortenson’s nonprofit in recent years over concerns about how its money was budgeted. The charity has filed only one public IRS return in its 14 years of existence, last year’s, and reported spending $1.7 million for Mortenson’s book promotion travels, including on private jets. Krakauer, who stopped supporting the institute nine years ago after donating $75,000, said he was told by a staffer that “Greg uses Central Asia Institute as his private ATM machine—that there’s no accounting. He has no receipts.”
In this defense, Mortenson did, however, concede that some elements of the tale may have been trimmed to fit the narrative. “The time about our final days on K2 and ongoing journey to Korphe village and Skardu is a compressed version of events that took place in the fall of 1993 … There were many people involved in the story and also those who produced the manuscript. What was done was to simplify the sequence of events for the purposes of telling what was, at times, a complicated story."
It is people like him who tend to make some powerful enemies (Anti-Americans in Pakistan) by using people to their advantage, making millions and lying to the public in return. Perhaps, if he would have put down the word "Fiction", none of this would even matter!