Three cups of tea: ‘US author fabricated charity work in Pakistan’

Published: April 17, 2011
Greg Mortenson’s account of building schools alleged to be inaccurate. PHOTO: REUTERS

Greg Mortenson’s account of building schools alleged to be inaccurate. PHOTO: REUTERS


Three Cups of Tea co-author Greg Mortenson fabricated some of the most dramatic and inspiring stories in his bestselling book and spent more money in one year promoting his book than building schools in Afghanistan and Pakistan, US broadcaster CBS said in an investigative report.

The report, to be aired by CBS on its “60 Minutes” programme on Sunday night, alleges that Mortenson’s charitable organisation has also taken credit for building schools that do not exist or were built by others. Mortenson was awarded among others the Sitara-e-Pakistan for his work.

The investigation by correspondent Steve Kroft quotes Into Thin Air author and mountaineer Jon Krakauer as saying he learned from one of Mortenson’s companions that the tale of how Mortenson got started was “a beautiful story” but “a lie.”

The book told how Mortenson got lost on a 1993 climb of K2, the world’s second highest peak, and then stumbled exhausted into the remote village of Korphe, was cared for by villagers, and promised to return and build a school. The “60 Minutes” story draws upon observations from the porters who joined Mortenson on his mountain trip in Pakistan and dispute his being lost. They say he only visited Korphe a year later.

The report alleges that  numerous schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan that Mortenson’s Central Asia Institute is said to have established either don’t exist or were built by others. According to the CAI’s website, the institute has “successfully established over 170 schools” and helped educate over 68,000 students, with an emphasis on girls’ education.”

Mortenson, 53, founder and executive director of the Central Asia Institute, defended his work of building schools for children, especially girls, in remote villages. “I hope these allegations and attacks, the people doing these things, know this could be devastating for tens of thousands of girls, for the sake of Nielsen ratings and Emmys,” Mortenson was quoted as saying.

“I stand by the information conveyed in my book,” he wrote in a statement. “As the co-author of the book, along with David Oliver Relin, I am responsible for the content in the book. 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.”

On its website, “60 Minutes” also reported that it interviewed three men whom Mortenson photographed and described as Taliban fighters who kidnapped him in 1996. They denied to CBS being Taliban and said they had protected, not kidnapped Mortenson. One man charged the writer’s version was “totally false,” a tale told “to sell his book.”

Mortenson responded that the men, armed with AK-47s, had “detained” him, kept his passport and money, and had not allowed him to leave for eight days.

He also responded to questions “60 Minutes” raised about his finances in a letter. Kroft’s letter said that a number of people have raised concerns that there is “inadequate separation” between the charity’s finances and Mortenson’s personal financial interests.

The letter cited a warning from CAI’s own attorneys last December and January that if audited by the IRS, Mortenson would likely be found in violation of rules against gaining “excess benefits” from the charity.

Kroft’s letter pointed to CAI’s 2009 nonprofit tax statement to the IRS, and asked why only 41 per cent of the money it raised actually went to pay for schools in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The letter also questioned whether CAI is spending millions to advertise Mortenson’s best-selling books and to hire charter jets to take him to $30,000 speaking engagements around the country, yet it received almost none of the money from his speeches and books.

“60 Minutes” also reported that it checked on schools CAI claims to have built and found “some of them were empty, built by somebody else, or simply didn’t exist at all. The principals of a number of schools said they had not received any money from CAI in years.”

The idea that the schools are a sham “is untrue,” Mortenson said. He blamed a once-trusted but disgruntled former employee in Pakistan for the problems paying some teachers.

“This could be devastating,” he said of the report. “It’s very difficult when you’re being stalked, bullied and harassed.”

“Three Cups of Tea” was released by Penguin in 2006.

With input from the news desk

Published in The Express Tribune, April 17th, 2011.


Greg Mortenson has replied to the CBS program, read here.

Facebook Conversations

Reader Comments (76)

  • Clark
    Apr 17, 2011 - 10:14AM

    For all the naysayers just keep this in mind. When government funded charities/organizations spend MILLIONS of dollars to build ONE school in Afghanistan and CAI does it for a fraction of that a few villages away and without one PENNY of government money that tends to make some powerful enemies. USAID alone doled out $500 million in Education spending in Afghanistan from 2002-2009. I guess I will hold my breath waiting for the 60 Minutes “investigation” on that.Recommend

  • Rajesh Kochhar
    Apr 17, 2011 - 10:52AM

    Sad but not surprisingRecommend

  • ba ha
    Apr 17, 2011 - 11:07AM

    I got suspicious after page 150. never finished the book. The description of his incarceration at the hands of the so called “Talibans” was fake and without purpose in this book. Perhaps homeland security had to be satisfied that funds were been used “properly”. Beware America is full of liars and cheats. President Musharaff was also a pushover for Farangis. I think awards should be given by some credible organization not lecherous govt/fauji functionariesRecommend

  • Ali Haider
    Apr 17, 2011 - 11:22AM

    I have read the book and was inspired by this guy. :(Recommend

  • SaudiRules
    Apr 17, 2011 - 11:47AM

    There are fake degree (phd, ofcourse :D) holders in senate, HEC and other government departments. There are fake brave generals wearing hundreds of medal on their chest, even though, since 1965, the khakis have done nothing but lost half the country, many battles (or blunders) and have ruined the country’s soveirnity and dignity.
    Whats wrong with a fake/undeserved Sitara-e-Pakistan?Recommend

  • James
    Apr 17, 2011 - 11:53AM

    The board of Central Asia Institute (CAI) continues to support Greg Mortenson. Their recent legal investigation found his promotional expenses “legal and appropriate.”

  • sofia malik
    Apr 17, 2011 - 12:34PM

    i read the book, and while i was reading it i was quite impressed by the writer’s effort but now iam thinking on what we should believe ??? we the third world countries are just used to earn money by publishing our stories and its no wonder that we are in this condition today beacuse we are always lookingfor the AID which is actually an AIDSRecommend

  • Iftikhar-ur-Rehman
    Apr 17, 2011 - 1:07PM

    This doesn’t surprise me at all.Recommend

  • Eeman
    Apr 17, 2011 - 1:20PM

    This is the last thing I’d expect from Greg. Recommend

  • Apr 17, 2011 - 1:31PM

    Everything is fake in Pakistan and Afghanistan. From fake cigerattes to fake schools and fake Taliban leaders. A fake democracy and some even call the Islam version of that region ‘a fake.’ Maybe Osama and Mullah Omar are also fake. And no surprise if finally we know that the whole region is fake. Recommend

  • Apr 17, 2011 - 2:01PM

    I dont believe this report, at all!
    what Greg Mortenson did was a huge favor to our country. and ofcourse when you handle such a big scale institute, some mismanagements are bound to occur. This ‘report’ is just screwing every teeny weeny issue to mess things up.
    I, for one still hail Greg Mortenson as an inspiration.Recommend

  • Angelos
    Apr 17, 2011 - 2:05PM

    And we awarded him ‘Sitara-e-Pakistan’Recommend

  • Rashid Sami
    Apr 17, 2011 - 2:12PM

    I am from Baltistan where he claims to have done a lot of work, i was very fond of the guy….but now i am concerned !Recommend

  • Rajesh Kochhar
    Apr 17, 2011 - 3:26PM

    @Rashid Sami: Did he do any work in Baltistan?Recommend

  • riaz mir
    Apr 17, 2011 - 3:37PM

    i m from gilgit baltistan. we are thankful to this guy for his efforts and the tremendous work which he is doing in baltistan .i have read his novel three cups of tea.this name is taken from a balti proverb Recommend

  • Elder Pakistani
    Apr 17, 2011 - 3:44PM

    Blind leads the blind!Recommend

  • amber h
    Apr 17, 2011 - 4:29PM

    a person should be given credits for the good things that he performs , and we must note down that the criticism is not coming from the nation that awarded him, and is not neccassarily objective that we believe the western media to be. so before blindly believing everything that we read ,(especially all the negative observations and responses) ,we need to appreciate the one who is trying to bring positivity to this region in whatever way.we need an uplift of our spirits , and need to put the negativity aside for once!Recommend

  • amber h
    Apr 17, 2011 - 4:32PM

    we have started enjoying and expecting negativity as a nation. instead of encouraging more poeple to do come and do good, we are agreeing with the western media ,which by the way is not always objective as we anticipate them to be. at this point in time we need to lift our spirits by celebrating whatver positivity anyone is trying to bring to this region, so that it can atrract more positive energy. we need to train ourselves to differentiate between the news that need to be ignored or acknowledged.Recommend

  • amber h
    Apr 17, 2011 - 4:34PM

    @Abdulhadi Hairan:
    turn the tube off . and try to identify 10 fake things that you can experience first hand.
    the situation is bad, but its not ALL bad :)Recommend

  • Rajesh Kochhar
    Apr 17, 2011 - 4:36PM

    @riaz mir: What is the full proverb?Recommend

  • Tony Mussari, Sr.
    Apr 17, 2011 - 5:09PM

    In my opinion, Greg Mortenson is the Face of America on its best day. His work is our best hope for peace in a very troubled world. We should support him and the wonderful work he is doing.

    Tony Mussari, Sr.
    The Face of America ProjectRecommend

  • Apr 17, 2011 - 7:14PM

    Greg’s books have inspired me and have changed my life. After reading Three Cups of Tea in 2006, I went to Tibet and found The Jatson Chumig School and Orphanage in Lhasa, Tibet. For the past 5 years, I have been volunteering there following Greg’s “mission” of changing live’s. When I began The Jatson Chumig Educational Corporation, a 501(c)(3)non-profit, 96% of all funds raised have gone directly to support this organization in Lhasa. I have read and re-read his books and use them as a template for never giving up because of the adversity one faces in overcoming challenegs in Lhasa. Greg’s work has been a great inspiration in my life and as allowed me to be instrumental in helping hundreds and hundreds of Tibetan orphans. I thank him for making my life and those of these children, better. Learn more about Jatson Chumig at Recommend

  • Apr 17, 2011 - 7:26PM

    Greg Motenson’s books have inspired me to rebuild just [one] school and orphanage in Lhasa, Tibet. ONE compared to his many successes! He has inspired many more than only myself as his works have enabled people from around the world to do more, to make a difference.

    Brian McClatchy
    founder/president: Jatson Chumig Educational Corp. – Jatson Chumig in Lhasa, TibetRecommend

  • Cautious
    Apr 17, 2011 - 7:33PM

    An example of good investigative reporting – something Pakistani reporters should try.Recommend

  • MS - Mariya
    Apr 17, 2011 - 7:54PM

    Well what if he is corrupt like so many others, the point is he has inspired many to do good things. He has inspired me to come back to my country and fix problems rather than complain. He has inspired me to aim big and do good for people outside your community also.

    I plan to build schools and vocational centers all over Pakistan in coming few years and thats because of Greg. This is all what matters to me and not if his story was a lie. Recommend

  • Amjad
    Apr 17, 2011 - 8:09PM

    I am deeply saddened by this news and suggest that we should refrain from sensationalism. Greg is an honorable man who has given a tremendous amount of his energy and resources to help education in Pakistan and the region. The personal sacrifices that he and his family have made cannot be repaid. The Board and management of CAI need to be given a fair chance to respond and clear the air. Recommend

  • Usman Sherazi
    Apr 17, 2011 - 8:22PM

    There is little doubt in the fact that Mortenson has been able to change the lives of thousands of of kids, especialy girls and their families in some of the most neglected and rugged areas of Pakistan and Afghanistan.
    This guy would continue to be a hero for those who have benifitted through his inspirational effort, and for many more who believe in his work.
    There may be some truth with regards to the exaggeration of work accomplished and mismanagement of funds, but that doesn´t look too odd considering the nature of work especialy when it is conducted by an individual whose attention is divided at many fronts and who is operating from thousands of miles away.
    There would be little doubt despite these reports that Mortenson has been able accomplish a monumental task at a fraction of cost as compared to the other government and US Aid agencies.
    Despite all the accusations that are now surfacing, it was a
    great book to read. We need more hard working and committed people around the globe like Greg.Recommend

  • Baazigar
    Apr 17, 2011 - 10:04PM

    It does not matter if he built 150 schools or 170. It does not matter if he actually got lost and if he actually got kidnapped or not – the events are probably factual, but the interpretation of a situation differ from person to person.
    Greg is doing what no government official has ever bothered to do or look into. These “News” reports are always too short and sensationalized; I wouldn’t believe a word of it as it would only take me $5 to ask someone to give a fake interview.
    The best way to judge his work is to go to these places and speak to those people. But then we are all too scared to go these places without an armed convoy of guards and we’d rather point the finger at someone who does go there, and who does work for these people and is without an armed convoy of guards. Recommend

  • amna
    Apr 17, 2011 - 10:31PM

    They even made stories about Abdul Sattar Edhi, so whats new. And these sitaras are also given to people like babar awan, I think Mortensen should return it to keep his credibility.Recommend

  • mike
    Apr 17, 2011 - 11:24PM

    the price one has to pay for putting ones self out into this dangerous world. with nobel intentions and a large % of sucess, comes great rewards and noteriaty. the aftermath of engaging the world with the purest of intentions historicaly leads to ones downfall.Recommend

  • Jahan Zeb Khan
    Apr 17, 2011 - 11:53PM

    Greg Mortenson is full of sensation and Drama. Cat is out of bag.Recommend

  • Jahan Zeb Khan
    Apr 17, 2011 - 11:56PM

    Pakistanis in general and our Punjabi brothers belives in their own consipriacy theories and can not be rational any more. God forbid, they have lost objectvity….Recommend

  • Mark Dionne
    Apr 18, 2011 - 12:09AM

    If 90% of what Greg claimed to do is proved to be untrue, he is still way ahead of almost everybody else. Let somebody who has done more than he has, throw the first stone.Recommend

  • imjee
    Apr 18, 2011 - 12:56AM

    most of the NGOs have the same practices; they actually spend much lesser than what they get from donors. We should not be bothered about the financial aspects as we are beneficiaries. He has projected our area and worked for good. Americans can ask him because they give him money. We being, on the other side, should appreciate him and his work. finally, novel is novel, read it and enjoy it. this is what novels are for.Recommend

  • beyg
    Apr 18, 2011 - 1:00AM

    Why not to look at the positive side? If he has done actually 50% of work, still an achievement. How many of us really work for our own people? I feel it is better to appreciate the things being done instead of criticizing…..Recommend

  • khan
    Apr 18, 2011 - 1:26AM

    sitting in a cozy room of Stanford
    taking a page from “3 Cups of tea” n wrote an article criticzing the motives in that page and publishing in a journal, really works :)
    It reminds me of comments from anchor Talat Hussain “many Pakistanis are called
    good researchers in west because they have published many articles in famous
    newspapers n social journals but he called them as good engineers because they know
    the motives of editors n publishers what they want to publish n from which prospective
    they want to see the situation and they are more interested in publishing work, not caring about ground realities n their country ”
    myself after reading, there
    was a good feeling about people and area he projected, yes, on some pages he exggerated the situation after all he has to sell that novel n gave an argument to the world that through schools we can
    change the situation.he used the word “northen pakistan” n he was not specific to Baltistan he was also
    refering to areas of FATA, Afganistan n chitral.
    When I see the back cover page of that novel there was a good message disiminating about our people and area
    “when you handshake with us then you become our friend n when you have a cup of
    tea then you become our brother and on having second cup of tea you
    become our family memeber” he refered this statement to local numbardar. this was the whole projection from
    his novel being as positive reader.
    A friend of mine she was very interested to visit just because she read this novel and
    wants to has experience of this hospitality, the novel projected.

    About his work, resident of GB
    myself and many others could not support to a single child of attabad disaster
    affectees,but we are very good in writing comments on facebook n tribune on Mortenson that he is liar n story teller, we are again distoring facts that
    CAI was the only institute which provided food n education to more than 50 students
    of attabad affectees from Gilgit-Baltistan.Recommend

  • Zaiba
    Apr 18, 2011 - 2:00AM

    It took CBS five years to produce an incomplete report that Mortenson did not make any of the claimed schools! In this day and age, when western media has penetrated every nook and corner of Pakistan, why can’t one reporter walk into some of the villages mentioned in the book and confirm or challenge his claims?Recommend

  • AlwaysBeASkeptic
    Apr 18, 2011 - 3:45AM

    Why did he have to write a book about it? If it really was such an inspiration, why didn’t someone else write the book? He wanted money. I’m sure he has done a lot to help Pakistan, but he contradicts himself with charity and greed. And who’s to say Mortenson’s accounts are correct? Clearly the western media is biased, but Mortenson could easily exaggerate to sell his books, which isn’t right.Recommend

  • Meena a Pakistani in San Francisco
    Apr 18, 2011 - 3:47AM

    I will watch the “60 minutes” episode. I have watched the program for over 20 year. When there is smoke there is fire.!
    I challenge the local Pakistani media and the young journalist men and women to do a conclusive investigative report and use every concern bought by “60 minutes ” and confirm ot refute it. I think it would make a brilliant documentary and would open the eyes of all of us who want to see the education system in Pakistan improve specially for girlls who can lift the spirits of the nation as a hold- similar for our Afghan brethren.
    The documentary can be called…‘three cups that are half filled”… Recommend

  • Parvez+Mahmud
    Apr 18, 2011 - 3:54AM

    Very interesting to say the least. What other NGO is working in Pakistan?Recommend

  • Apr 18, 2011 - 4:15AM

    There was a time when 60 Minutes was considered a reliable source of news and information, but they’ve been sliding downhill for quite a while — and have just hit bottom. This attack on Greg Mortenson shows how low the U. S. media will stoop to improve their ratings.Recommend

  • Apr 18, 2011 - 5:13AM

    @Clark: There are two sides to every story, and 60 Minutes is leaving out a huge part of this one.

    Author Ethan Casey, who personally knows Greg, fills in a lot of what 60 Minutes left blank. Please read his article and share it with those you know!

    “Greg Mortenson Redefines ‘Doing One’s Best'”:

  • littleleers
    Apr 18, 2011 - 5:49AM

    I read both of Greg Mortenson’s books. I felt that some of it was embellished, for sure. But I believe that the core of the books, building schools for girls, is still true.

    I would like to give Greg the benefit of the doubt and let him tell his side fully. What I do know from someone who is working and living in Pakistan is that it is the way of Pakistani culture to lie…yes, lie. My friend is a former Muslim from another strict Islamic country and he said he was shocked at the level and ease of lying by those educated and uneducated. So please, folks, bear that in mind. I do not know of Afghan culture and if it is the same.

    However, I find it odd that General Mike Mullens would allow his name to be used if the book and the works described therein were fake. Has anyone disputed that top military brass has consulted with Greg about his methods of reaching the hearts and minds of these people in these regions? Are these lies too? Is it a lie that Greg met with former Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld?

    Throughout both books, Greg spoke of how at times, funds and supplies would get stolen. That at times it was difficult to find someone trustworthy. Also, there were some schools that were destroyed by those with more militant and extreme Islamic beliefs.

    I think the issue of misappropriating funds of donors is all that we should care about. If Mr. Mortenson and his board can explain their expenditures, then I think the issue should be put to rest.Recommend

  • Tahmina
    Apr 18, 2011 - 5:55AM

    Note that there is not real evidence in this article. A few Taliban claimed they’re innocent. Some porters accused him of lying. Krofts letter really only questioned what happened. I think before people just take this in and mindlessly taken it all in and get brainwashed, they should step back and think for themselves. Believe it or not, even good people can have enemies. I’m not saying it’s not possible that he was lying about some parts of the novel. I’m just saying we don’t have any proof to say he is. Read the novel for yourselves, the whole thing. Just in my opinion, that would be pretty hard to write without any experience, and a whole lot of trouble for no reason. Recommend

  • x
    Apr 18, 2011 - 7:22AM

    It is pathetic how the commentators on this page turn against greg ( and this is true of almost all articles published everywhere about this incident and so isn’t local to the tribune) 60 minutes has not even aired its show yet, but we have reached our verdict that greg is guilty, that is shameful.
    This article itself simply alleges, and nothing more.

    I do hope that whatever ongoing work is going on in Pakistan regarding education remains unaffected, though I doubt it will be.

    either way…

  • Kamran
    Apr 18, 2011 - 7:52AM

    I am relieved to see so many people still supporting Greg. Greg – we are with you all the way. Recommend

  • Apr 18, 2011 - 7:55AM

    As a nation we love to focus on the negative. Even Edhi has not been able to escape controversy. I think we dont need to get into the nitty gritty of the book. Even if there is an exaggeration and not 100% is true, the fact remains that Greg has made a difference in numerous lives and inspired several into similar work in different parts of the world..Thats more than what most of us can claim to have salute to himRecommend

  • Sheila
    Apr 18, 2011 - 9:29AM

    The fact that he only spent 41% of the funds on the effort is not surprising. From what I understand, for an organization to be a charity, they only need to give a fraction of the money they raise to the cause. Maybe the problem is with the system. Recommend

  • Kon
    Apr 18, 2011 - 9:39AM

    I have read Greg’s book and know that he has done a truly incredible, tireless and relentless job of educating the children in that region. And with many fold less money than than most of the donor organizations, NGOs or local governments. I have more respect for Greg and less credibility for CBS 60 Minutes which seems to be turning into a tabloid TV. Recommend

  • SaudiRules
    Apr 18, 2011 - 10:06AM

    Dear Awam,
    Please wake up and smell the “tea”….. all 3 cups of them! Moretenson has duped pakistan and gullible pakistanis, awam as always, have bended-over in front of a gora, got their collective chaddis wet and now deluding themselves by denying the truth in the CBS report!.Recommend

  • Saad Durrani
    Apr 18, 2011 - 11:16AM

    The little conspiracy theorist in me says why now. Why in 2011 when there is a talk of local version of Sesame Street? Furthermore, even if Glenn did not anything. He sold the book which is more on the lines of community-development. This book is a key to inspiration. So question all you want, the damage is done.Recommend

  • Amjad
    Apr 18, 2011 - 11:33AM

    Appreciate your interest. There are many NGOs working in education in Pakistan — too many to list. Explore (738 school units, 102,000 girls and boys, 5,400 teachers). In the US, there are 4 leading non-profits that support education for Pakistani children —,, CAI and
    Write back to me if you want more details. Recommend

  • Megan
    Apr 18, 2011 - 1:00PM

    This is absolutely ridiculous. I am a journalist myself and am appalled at the information they misconstrue in this article. Money used to promote his book were in order to raise awareness about his story and cause and probably earned him and the CAI much more money than was spent. Companies everywhere are sometimes mismanaged and perhaps one or two of his schools have not lived up to expectations, but compared to the hundreds of other schools and amazing feats he has accomplished, the damages are slight. Especially in comparison to the zero efforts our government has made to educate women in the middle east…. Why doesn’t 60 minutes cover that story? I stand by Greg all the way and believe everyone else should support his cause as well despite some exaggerated media claims.Recommend

  • Lupur
    Apr 18, 2011 - 1:21PM

    I have a hard time believing this report. Then again 60 Minutes is no joke. If Greg is innocent, he should be welcoming that IRS audit. The numbers don’t lie. I am sure there are problems within the CAI just like every other institution on the planet fighting the bureaucracy, but honestly, I am crushed after reading this report. I hope it isn’t all true, as that book was a great inspiration to me.Recommend

  • Ayesha
    Apr 18, 2011 - 1:39PM

    disappointing….would be nice if ET can bring us some stories of people actually making a difference! Recommend

  • Khalid Rahim
    Apr 18, 2011 - 4:54PM

    At least accept the fact, he is a better story teller than the majority of our politicians and the
    government official in/out of uniforms.Recommend

  • abcd
    Apr 18, 2011 - 5:51PM

    The book seemed too good to be true,though it was hard to put down.Recommend

  • Apr 18, 2011 - 8:41PM

    I’m the founder for another system of schools in Pakistan that is quite different from the CAI model. We don’t take donations and we rely on our students to set the direction and earn the costs, which are quite low. It is a simple grass roots all volunteer organization but we have 30 schools and approximately 4000 students, mostly women. Husbands and families are proud of their hard work to bring prosperity. Five dollars they earn making embroidered greeting cards will pay a tuition for one year and we are looking to lower that.

    My problem with the CAI model is that it is top down outside money driven. What is the value of pumping million dollar Western style education into village cultures? They want and must learn how to solve their own complex problems and work their own way out, gaining strength as they go. Those millions of dollars from the outside smother what must come from the inside.

    We at Little World Community Organization are regular people rolling up our sleeves to stand with the impoverished and assist their gallant and hopeful efforts to make a good life for themselves.

    Greg ZallerRecommend

  • Tony Mussari, Sr.
    Apr 18, 2011 - 10:18PM

    From the ambush interview featured and cleverly edited to make Greg Mortenson look like a deer in the headlights in the promo to the gratuitous compliment in the conclusion, the 60 Minutes piece about Greg Mortenson is a powerful example of how cleaver editing and storytelling with a bias can damage the reputation and the work of a good man.
    In my opinion, the mindset and tone of the 60 Minutes segment was get Greg Martenson, embarrass Greg Mortenson, punish Greg Mortenson, make Greg Mortenson out to be a villain, and imply he is a felon.

    For me, the ambush interview said it all. It’s a technique that once resulted in a Supreme Court decision against CBS. It’s a technique that does not create confidence. It is a technique that may have theatrical and visual impact, but it does little where truth is concerned.

    Watching the other two episodes broadcast by 60 Minutes on Sunday evening, I asked myself, “Why didn’t the producers of those segments ambush the three students accused of a crime? Why didn’t they ambush Bill Gates to find out if his former partner Paul Allen was telling the truth?”

    Anyone who reads material readily available to anyone who does a little research knows that Greg Mortenson has denied all of these accusations. He and his board have answered all of the questions with reasonable and plausible answers. At least $20 million is in a trust fund to carry on his work. The CAI board asked its lawyer to review its financial practices before 60 Minutes began work on their story. The review found nothing to be illegal or unethical. In fact, it discovered benefits to the Central Asia Institute that far exceeded the benefits to Greg Mortenson. His fundraising supports school construction and educational campaigns.

    Concerning his speaking engagements, he is doing what any sensible person would do. He is making good use of the limited window any author has to engage audiences, sell his book, create awareness of his mission and raise funds for the wonderful work he is doing.

    You will also learn that he is suffering from serious heart problems.

    Over the years, I have been an enthusiastic supporter of 60 Minutes. That will not change. People are human, even people with cameras, microphones and an international venue like 60 Minutes. They don’t hit home runs in terms of quality and balance with every episode. They are just as prone to mistakes and overzealousness as the rest of us.

    In the case of 60 Minutes, when they get it right, it is a beautiful thing to watch. In point of fact, Leslie Stahl’s episodes Gospel for Teens were two of the best and most inspirational stories I have ever seen.

    What I hope will change is the capricious role playing of prosecutor, judge, jury and executioner. Correspondents would be well advised to remember the Don Hewitt dictum, “Tell me a story.” They best serve their viewers by telling it fairly, telling it objectively, telling it honorable without histrionics and theatrical techniques.

    This unfortunate story masquerading as objective journalism will make Greg Mortenson’s work much more difficult, but I believe he will prevail. He will continue to build schools, and those of us who believe in his important work will continue to support him.

    Tony Mussari, Sr.
    The Face of America ProjectRecommend

  • Rajesh Kochhar
    Apr 18, 2011 - 10:43PM

    @Greg Zaller:
    I am very happy to note details of your model. As a student of English education under colonial auspices in the Indian subcontinent , I can see your model has far more chances of success than the top-down model. I wish your experiment all success, the more so because it is directed at girls.Recommend

  • Saad H
    Apr 18, 2011 - 11:19PM

    why is it that only this “report” has found out whatever it found out. Isnt it a bit weird that no one else realised that it was all false when the book actually came out? and we cant exactly trust the american media on this, they’re not exactly known for their truth uncovering abilities about pakistan…Recommend

  • crazy
    Apr 18, 2011 - 11:27PM

    all the NGOs in Pakistan are fake. They get money from donors and spend on themselves. I have never seen a single REAL beneficiary of these NGOs except their own management. I myself applied to many NGOs for financial support during my MBBS but none of them replied. Only Akhuwat promised to help me. All these are lairs. More advertisement and less accomplishments. If you want to do some real charity work then you should join Akhuwat.Recommend

  • Maryann
    Apr 19, 2011 - 12:34AM

    Don’t wholeheartedly believe anything at first read–neither this scathing article nor Greg Moretenson’s inspiring book. LOOK AT THE INTENTIONS BEHIND WHAT YOU ARE READING. What are Mr. Moretenson’s intentions? To build educational infrastructure in one of the most violent and needy places in the world. If his intention were to get rich, he’s not in the right business. Now, what are the intentions of the press, and possibly governments? To criticize, expose the perhaps true mistakes of someone who has undoubtedly done much-needed work in this forsaken area? Sorry, but even with his flaws, Mr. Moretenson is still on track, and the girls and boys he has served are better off. If they succeed in taking Mr. Moretenson away from his work, financially or physically, the children will suffer. And while that may not be the INTENTION of CBS, the children will still lose out.Recommend

  • Ali Khattak
    Apr 19, 2011 - 1:27AM

    All said and done, Greg Mortenson’s CAI has been responsible for educating thousands of students in remote and impoverished parts of Pakistan and Afghanistan. That achievement alone, should outweigh any peripheral doubts and concerns the commercial media is exploiting to boost viewer ratings. We can debate about the veracity of his writings, the proportion of funds spent on travelling etc, but there are hundreds of schools that exist thanks to his work, that educate masses even the Pakistani government (and its military rulers) seem to have forgotten. That is a fact and no amount of ‘investigative’ journalism a la Steve Kroft can take it away from Greg and the CAI.Recommend

  • zenab
    Apr 19, 2011 - 6:32AM

    I still admire Greg a lot, he has inspired many people to build schools in Pakistan. Financial miss-managements are not uncommon in charity organizations. He is far better than our politicians who have done nothing besides filling their bank accounts and ruining the image of Pakistan. Greg has done a lot of work and I can attest to that because I have been to the area and I have seen the schools he has talked about. I can’t totally rule out the possibility of exaggeration but come on guys, it’s a novel based on true events..he had to make it simple and enjoyable for people. Greg! you have done a truly great work and I hope you come out of all these allegations. God bless you.Recommend

  • Laura Ralston
    Apr 19, 2011 - 11:25AM

    CBS, go after the real bad guys in our country, the bankers and insurance bandits who single handedly tanked our economy and sent our country spiraling downward into recession. Greg Mortenson’s organization has done more good in our world in the last decade than any of the crooks on Wall Street. This is sensationalist journalism at its worst.

    May the Central Asia Institute remain an inspiring example of what Americans can do in the name of peace and international aid. Recommend

  • Apr 19, 2011 - 2:18PM

    I have been indeeply inspired by his journey and his work and was able to form in UK
    SPELT UK, Society of Pakistan For English Language Teachers.which teaches Literacy and ESOL in the community. I woulld like to do the same in my own country.

    whether Greg is a fake is something only he can answer, but he definitely has done good work but any good work there comes a responsibility. In the book there is a piece where it is mentioned that Greg ‘just wants to build the schools’ but is not concerned with the finances or the book keeping maybe other people who were good in this aspect could have come in.

    But the point stands, in our country we won’t do anything good ourselves but the moment we see somebody else doing it or becoming famous, we’ll make sure ho goes down.

    That is the prime reason for our own downfall.Recommend

  • Bruno'
    Apr 19, 2011 - 3:27PM


    I sincerely hope that if from Pakistan….your tuition is being funded properly taxed ( haalal) and honestly earned money.
    Then only will I take any brand placement value addition to your words.Recommend

  • G. Din
    Apr 19, 2011 - 6:03PM

    American Institute pf Philanthropies asked to examine the records of his Central Asia Institute. Guess what? He has no or quite sparse records. He has used his philanthropy more as “his personal ATM”, according to some. IRS is likely to be examining his activities. That is no good news for him! Now, he is in a hospital to get a hole in his heart sewed up. Altogether, quite intriguing! It is amazing how these Americans can’t find anything to do in America itself where there is so much poverty and deprivation in the inner cities!Recommend

  • Sam
    Apr 20, 2011 - 5:33AM

    Another hero becomes a villain?Recommend

  • Ali Adil
    Apr 20, 2011 - 7:50PM

    I belong to Gilgit-Baltistan. I don’t care about the book… He built more then 30 school in Baltistan region. beside this he also provided funds for water supply etc. thats why he got highest civil award from Govt. of Pakistan. Recommend

  • Rajesh Kochhar
    Apr 20, 2011 - 11:38PM

    @Ali Adil:
    The real constituency of Greg Mortenson is US. In the colonial times, whenever the Britishers did any thing worthwhile in the colonies, they wanted it to be duly noticed back home.Ditto for Mr Mortenson.Any benefit to Pakistan or Afghanistan is incidental. Since, he was addressing his audience back home, he thought some dose of exoticism would help.Facts are drab ; it is the screenplay that fascinates.The key question is not that he fibbed, but that America at large considers the Hindukush to be an exotic place.Recommend

  • Sharon Wilders
    Apr 22, 2011 - 12:10AM

    With all the money that Pakistan gets not only from the West but from oil rich nations like Saudi Arabia, why are not the Pakistanis building their own schools? Why does no one ask those questions? And why is it that we keep giving a complete pass to a nation like Pakistan and also Saudi Arabia for the money that flows but it flows to either some bank account in Switzerland AND to the jihad they wage against us and India/Kashmir?

    And with zakat funding the violent jihadists, why is it we don’t #1. put a halt to that in the USA and the West AND #2. blare it to the world what the so called ‘moderates’ are funding?!?!?!

    Sharia law on zakat, one of the pillars of islam which makes it a requirement by moslems to give unless they are too poor:

    h8.17 The seventh category (of recipients of zakat) is those fighting for Allah, meaning people engaged in Islamic military operations for whom no salary has been allotted in the army roster (O: but who are volunteers for Jihad without remuneration). They are given enough to suffice them for the operation, even if affluent; of weapons, mounts, clothing, and expenses (O: for the duration of the journey, round trip, and the time they spend there, even if prolonged. Though nothing has been mentioned here of the expense involved in supporting such people’s families during this period, it seems clear that they should also be given it).

    And some of the other categories go to fund their stealth jihad against us (jihad by other ways other than violence since moslems are given an out to be violent if enough are doing that) are funded by that zakat. moslems relabel words in order to make it sound legitimate, holy or ok. An example of that is when moslems tell us they do not believe in the killing of innocents. They practice taqiyya when they do not tell us the rest of it that non-moslems are not considered innocent.Recommend

  • Parah Salin
    Apr 22, 2011 - 5:42PM

    This blog is so full of gushing comments over how wonderful this charlatan is, I don’t believe they are real. It’s probably AIC institute employees. It’s not a surprise that the institute would “investigate” and find everything wonderful; he set that up too for the purposes of tax evasion and launder the profits and money back to himself. It’s what rich people do in the US. Do some internet research on this guy. When ABC tracked him down after he refused to answer questions he then had them thrown out of a book signing. He’s a snake and a liar. This information was out last year. Recommend

  • Dr Shujat
    Apr 24, 2011 - 12:58AM

    I am a witness of the disgruntled condition of the schools now about which mortenson himself admitted that one of his employees in Pakistan, who was the Program manager for this, betrayed him. Thats true, because he is in my hometown who refused to follow mortenson’s tasks anymore and also claimed that its all his own effort and usurp an institute build by CAI. As much as I know personally his(Mortenson’s) work in our area it was an outstanding job, and after all one has to advertise it through a book or any media to raise funds and to keep it continue, I the allegations might be biased by some miscreants. I applause his relish for service to humanity always.Recommend

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