90.9 WBUR - Boston's NPR news station
Top Stories:
Here and Now with Robin Young
Public radio's live
midday news program
With sponsorship from
Mathworks - Accelerating the pace of engineering and science
Accelerating the pace
of engineering and science
Wednesday, April 11, 2012

‘Three Cups Of Tea’ Charity Vows To Forge Ahead

Greg Mortenson, his son Khyber, and daughter, Amira Mortenson, with students at Gultori War refugee school, Bromolo Colony, Karakoram mountains in 2008. (PRNewsFoto/Central Asia Institute, Deirdre Eitel)

The head of the American Institute of Philanthropy Daniel Borochoff tells the Great Falls Tribune that problems like those seen at the Central Asia Institute, author Greg Mortensons’s Bozeman, Montana-based charity, are more prevalent in the charity world than most people think.

“It’s a wild west atmosphere and it’s not just Montana. Donors beware,” Borochoff says.

Mortenson Ordered To Pay Back $1 Million

Last week the Montana Attorney General ordered Greg Mortenson off CAI’s board and to pay back $1 million the AG says were misspent.

Separately, Mortenson is accused in civil lawsuits of fabricating parts of “Three Cups of Tea” and there will be a hearing on those lawsuits next week.

Worth Saving Central Asia Institute?

But the Montana AG did report that despite severe problems, the Central Asia Institute is “worth saving” because of its mission: building schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Anne Beyersdorfer, acting director of the Central Asia Institute, told Here & Now‘s Robin Young why she feels the organization should continue.

“We were a wonderful organization growing very quickly and [Mortenson] was working towards the mission at all times,” she said.

Beyersdorfer says that CAI supporters will “see beyond… the immediate rush to judgment that came with the media accusations in the spring, and they see the longterm benefits of educating girls, especially in the areas we serve.”

She says CAI “respectfully disagrees” with the Montana Attorney General’s report.


  • Anne Beyersdorfer, acting director of the Central Asia Institute

Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.
  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Guy-Montag/100000682995139 Guy Montag

    “It’s [“Into Thin Air”] there in print forever.  It’s part of history.   People should be above taking someone else down.   And for what?   For money and egos people are willing to destroy other people to further their careers.”
                                               – David Breashears, (“Improper Bostonian”, Sept 24, 1997)
    Last year, Daniel Glick wrote:  “I believe in the importance of journalism to ferret out charlatans, expose financial fraud, and hold people and institutions accountable.  That said, it’s hard to believe why “60 Minutes” decided that Greg Mortenson and the Central Asia Institute qualified on any of those fronts – much less why Jon Krakauer joined in this recent barrage.”
    On April 17, 2011 CBS’s “60 Minutes” aired their expose of Greg Mortenson (best-selling author of “Three Cups of Tea”).  Jon Krakauer (best-selling author of “Into Thin Air”) said that Mortenson tells a “beautiful story, and it’s a lie” and “uses Central Asia Institute (CAI) as his private ATM machine.”
    This expose resulted in a dramatic drop in Mortenson’s book sales and donations to CAI.   So, it’s rather ironic that after his break with Mortenson in 2004, Krakauer had written:  “I still believe in CAI’s mission … I don’t want to make any public statements that would have a negative impact on Greg’s work….”   
    So then, seven years later, what prompted Jon Krakauer to speak out on “60 Minutes” and write his e-book “Three Cups of Deceit”?  Well, Krakauer was not just a “jilted crank” or “crusading do-gooder” outraged by literary deceit and lax accounting practices.   It appears that Krakauer’s e-book was largely a publicity stunt whose publication was timed with the “60 Minutes” broadcast (largely based on research spoon-fed to them by Krakauer) to create the “buzz” to raise the investment capital needed to launch his old friend (former “Outside” Editor) Mark Bryant’s start-up of Byliner.com.
    It doesn’t appear that the Montana AG found evidence of criminal activity.  However, once Mortenson comes out of seclusion, he certainly needs to answer questions about his literary and financial practices.    But, I believe Krakauer also needs to answer questions about how he “got onto the Mortenson story” (but, like Mortenson, Krakauer isn’t talking to the press).
    And, while it certainly appears that Greg Mortenson confabulated parts of his ”inspirational story,” Jon Krakauer has also had “credibility problems” with his own books.   Krakauer displayed hypocrisy by “throwing stones” when his own hands are not clean of deceit. 
    Overall, I believe Daniel Glick (at danielglick.net) has offered the most balanced commentary on this affair:  “[‘60 Minutes’ and Jon Krakauer’s assault was overkill] lacking in basic elements of fairness, balance, perspective, insight and context. … Mortenson is neither a saint nor a charlatan; Krakauer is not either a jilted crank or a crusading do-gooder.  There are nuances, debatable “facts” and conflicting motivations in almost every situation, messy and at times seemingly irreconcilable.  This is no exception.”
    . . .
    Note:  An un-abridged version of this post (with hyperlinks, more detailed quotes, and complete references can be found in the chapter, “With Three Cups of Luck?” in the Jon Krakauer post, at http://www.feralfirefighter.blogspot.com

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/KZBBZ47NQSLB2AG43U7ATAQAIA Steve

    INTO THIN AIR by Jon Krakauer is fiction wrote while he was snoozing in a tent.  Read “THE CLIMB” by Anatoli Boukreev for the truth.

    Boukreev was criticized in Jon Krakauer’s book, “Into Thin Air” for heading down Mt Everest too quickly when the blizzard hit, leaving clients behind.

    Little did Krakauer know that that was the plan all along for Boukreev–to get down and rest in case an emergency arose where he would be needed to ascend again. Krakauer wasn’t even in Boukreev’s expedition, so to make such an assumption was done out of jealousy.

    In a total lack of journalistic integrity, Krakauer never bothered to check this fact. Boukreev himself claims he told Krakauer this, yet Krakauer deliberately did not mention this. The truth of the matter is, while Krakauer was asleep in his tent, too exhausted to move, Boukreev went into the storm and saved lives. 

    Boukreev is not the villain Krakauer paints him to be, but the truth is, Boukreev was the hero. Krakauer and his dirty little secrets belong on the fiction shelves.

Robin and Jeremy

Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

August 28 Comment

Catching Up With The Polyphonic Spree

The choral rock band out of Dallas, Texas, has been thrilling audiences with its live performances for over a decade.

August 28 5 Comments

‘Enormous’ Growth Of Ocean Garbage Patch

The oceanographer who discovered the floating island of trash in 1997 says he's shocked by how much it's grown.

August 27 Comment

Veteran Honored, But Struggles To Keep Business Open

Former Marine Matt Victoriano is being recognized as a "Champion of Change" at the White House.

August 27 40 Comments

In Defense Of Schlock Music: Why We Love/Hate It

Music critic Jody Rosen defends the kind of over-the-top, sentimental songs that Journey, Lionel Richie, Billy Joel and Prince made famous.