'Three Cups of Tea': Inspirational memoir inaccurate, says '60 Minutes'


The inspirational New York Times bestseller, Three Cups of Tea, may be rife with inaccuracies, alleges 60 Minutes in a report due to air this Sunday on CBS. The 2006 memoir was co-written by Greg Mortenson, a mountaineering humanitarian who co-founded and directs the Central Asia Institute, a non-profit that’s supposedly built 170 schools in rural Afghanistan and Pakistan. But the CBS newsmagazine is claiming many of the schools the Institute built were either built by someone else, or simply don’t exist.

After attempting to climb K2, an exhausted Mortenson says in his book that he stumbled upon a Pakistani village, and hospitality and warmth he experienced inspired Mortenson to build a school there. Into the Wild author Jon Krakauer is one of Mortenson’s doubters who 60 Minutes will cite in its broadcast Sunday night.

Penguin, Mortenson’s publisher, did not return EW’s requests for comment.

Comments (69 total) Add your comment
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  • bamalam

    We had to read this my freshman year in college…I thought something was odd while reading it…idk what it was, but something was just…off

    • Anita

      I completely agree. The guy sounded pretty disorganized and haphazard – – yet he built 170 schools. It just didn’t make sense to me. And the voice of the book was so darned smug. The whole thing struck me as unlikely at best . . .so totally not surprised to see this report. Interested in watching 60 minutes.

    • Hmm

      What kind of tea was it?

  • Janean

    This would/will make me so happy if it turns out to be true. I wanted to like this book, but the author just sounded so smug!

    • cheese

      I would have to agree…the author had such adoration for Mortenson…talk about man crush!

      • Jay

        The author is Mortenson.

      • Janni Genugen

        Well, David Oliver Relin was the actual writer

    • Blooregard Q Kazoo

      I definitely agree with you, the author did come off as arrogant and that annoyed me. But I don’t think I would be happy if this turns out to be true because even if he was smug…what he claimed he did would have helped so many children. I think I would be disgusted, if anything. I really hope it isn’t true, not because I think Mortenson is a great person as some people have been saying, but because what he did was great. Well…if he actually even built the schools that is

      • Janean

        You’re right, “happy” isn’t exactly the right word, since the work described in the book was great.

  • Allie

    great,another lying author

  • Felix


  • Jack L.

    I read his book and actually saw him come to a speech & book signing thing at a local high school. I didn’t really suspect anything at the time, but yeah, now that I think about it, there was something a bit off. I definitely respect Jon Krakauer. The 60 minutes piece should be interesting…

  • asdfdsfas

    oh snap. this is not good. i was forced to read this at school and even mortenson’s mom came.

  • Typical Internet Guy

    I can’t say I’m really surprised by this story. Not that I believe Greg Mortenson is a liar but rather the media would be tired of his good guy role and seek to tear him down. For those of you out there in internet land I would vote that you hold your opinion until the story breaks.

    • joblo

      Why is it tearing someone down to tell the truth about something that was a lie? Being a “good guy” does not excuse dishonesty; especially profiting from the dishonesty.

      • Typical Internet Guy

        How do you know they are telling the truth? We haven’t seen the story or heard any of their sources nor have we heard any response from Mortenson himself. All I am saying is don’t immediately buy into this story.

      • Ron Edwards

        A liar is a liar and a crook is a crook but the worst thing is all the good work that could have been done isn’t all the schools that were not built and all the young lives that were not helped.

      • Janni Genugen

        Typical Internet Guy: From the way he reacted to the men descending on him in Atlanta. From the fact that Krakauer was able to make a case. From the statements of Mehsud and the photos he showed.

  • Clayton

    Man, this is great. Met Greg Mortensen a couple years ago and he was a total prick. Super arrogant.

    • Wha’ever

      I love how everytime there’s an article about someone, everyone seems to have met the person and found him arrogant, full of himself or whatever. Of course.

  • Brett G.

    A few hundred word news brief and the vultures circle. You guys are unreal.

    • knot1chance

      it.s the stench

  • Belinda

    It’s always good to debate things: and why not ask questions. I think he’ll come out on top. Whenever someone tries to do good in the world there are some who will criticize.

  • Sandi Buzzard

    Let me see, we get the guy who butchered the story of Everest in 96, taking on a great guy, whom I have met, and who deserves all the accolades he can get. Why does Krakauer only gain his fame by tearing down those more worthy?

    • Brett G.

      My sentiments exactly.

    • Marie T

      Exactly. Krakauer inserts himself into every “story” he writes about, and since this story wasn’t about him he had to find a way to get himself in there, too. If anyone’s smug, it’s Krakauer.

      • Jay

        I think Krakauer has a problem with the fact that Mortenson never went to the village and never built a school there.

  • Susan

    Funny how people can’t stand a good person. I know Greg and he’s no liar. He’s an honorable man and it’s really a shame that the media once again wants to destroy a hero with lies. And so many petty little people want to see him fall because they could not come close to being the person he is. Jealous, aren’t you?

    • Akshay

      Awesome article, Mr. Glick. If Mr. Mortenson ndeeed a wakeup call, so be it. NO ONE is claiming he’s a perfect manager. He wouldn’t be the first one. He did not transition his organization fast enough to the next level? SO fix it. Unfortunately, I do believe that Mr. Krakauer has A LOT of PRACTICE with these types of skirmishes (check his track record). So, now he realizes that he can MANUFACTURE them! Brilliant. the question is how to stop this technique of RUINING REPUTATIONS through cyber-allegations w/o giving him (JK) too much free publicity. I agree it’s the use of the Internet here that is particularly heinous. I hope Mr. Mortenson knows a GREAT lawyer

  • dana

    I as well have met Greg and interviewed him. He is honorable and real. My community raised money for a school and it does exist. Can’t beleive all the mean comments here on someone who has done a great deal of good.

    • Leah

      A school, sure. The interesting thing though will be to see what is said about the other 169.

  • Ana

    I haven’t read (or actually heard of) the book but it’s a memoir, which aren’t always 100% accurate. So unless it comes out that he didn’t build any schools, I don’t really see where the story is.

  • Mark Sampson

    Krakauer is a morbid, dark, brooding man who could not make a living as a mechanic. Look at all his stories, so marred in mechanical detail and following dead people around. Krakauer is revengeful about something with Mr. Mortenson who may be a poor writer, but it is humble and I know the villagers love him and American media butchers those who love Muslims. Most of CBS top producers are Jewish by the way.

    • Michelle

      Regardless of whether or not this story is true, you sir are one scary soul.

    • jo

      So by the very nature of the fact that the top producers are Jewish much mean they means what exactly? I am sure you are trying to make a serious implication with such a statement but since you offer no rationale, your argument hardly holds any water.

      As for Krahauer — he is an honored author for a reason. His books are well researched and well written. Yes, his matter subject is dark. But in the case of Into Thin Air…he was there. He experienced the 1996 Mt. Everest disaster. And it is inaccurate to state he follows dead people around. His subject matter is about the story surrounding those who have died and the events that lead up to them and the aftermath.

      As for Mortenson — I am curious to see how the response is after the 60 Minutes story airs. To date, they haven’t come out against the facts stated in the story but instead just say “lots of people have benefited.” That’s quite different then saying 170 schools were built by the foundation.

    • Marie T

      I was with you til the end of that comment and the Jewish remark.

      Krakauer is an egotistical person who inserts himself into EVERY story he writes about when really he should just be an impartial observer and reporter of events; drives me crazy. The Mortenson story grew big and Krakauer was going to get in on it any way he could, and his way is by tearnig the man down. Never liked Krakauer, and now I like him even less.

      • Sako

        How does that make it OK for Greg to have lied to kids. Kids who gave away pennies from their lunch money deserve an explanation. Let us have transparency, cold facts… rather than tearing down people due to personal likes/dislikes

    • Dessy

      Daniel:It occurred to me rednigrag Krakauer\’s decision to post TCD online, rather than through his publishers Random House or Knoff/Doubleday. The most obvious reason is not length (75 pages plus addendums make a paperback). The reality is Three Cups of Deceipt would never have made it through the legal departments of reputable publishers. He clearly sought no legal council prior to publication, and he may well rue that decision.I\’m am being dissed by readers on Outside online for bringing up the fact that Outside did the same attack journalism on the father of outdoor literature Peter Matthiessen over his book, In the Spirit of Crazy Horse, where he passionately defends Leonard Peltier\’s and the injustice of his life sentence for allegedly killing 2 FBI agents at Wounded Knee, S.D. in the 1970s.. Outside writer Scott Anderson took the stand Peltier was a lazy Indian who deserved what he got, and then proceded to attack Matthiessen, bascially accusing him of being anti-American for supporting Native causes. Matthiessen fought back. GM should do the same as soon as his health allows. PM assisted me on an article I was writing about his Sherpa guide Tukten Sherpa. I sent him a photo (which he did not have) and began both corresponding and speaking with him on the phone. When the article was complete, we discussed which publication would be the best fit. I (now regretfully) suggested Outside. His response was HELL NO! Not Outside. Never Outside. I wrote an open letter to the editorial board reminding them they have a reputation for this type of attack reporting (the Donald Trump school of urnalism) and it smells. No writer or publication is given a reputation. It is earned, for better or for worse, and all I see published in Outside is worse.

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