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Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Court Rejects Lawsuit Against Author Greg Mortenson

“Three cups of tea” author Greg Mortenson told the Associated Press that the dismissal of a civil lawsuit accusing him of fabricating book passages to make money for himself and his charity confirms his faith in the U.S. justice system.

On Monday, a U.S. district judge rejected the lawsuit calling the claims against Mortenson overly broad, flimsy and speculative.

Last month, Montana’s attorney general. announced $1 million dollar agreement to settle claims that Mortenson mismanaged the Central Asia Institute and misspent its funds. The agreement removes Mortenson from any financial oversight and overhauls the charity’s structure.

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  • Guy Montag

    It’s also worth noting  the Montana Attorney General’s investigation “did not reveal evidence of conduct that would sufficiently constitute the basis for any criminal investigation.” 

    Last year, 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.

    “In response, 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.”

    Last years’ 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, Jon 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 also 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 [see the chapter “With Three Cups of Luck?”  in the April 2011 post at the feralfirefighter blog].

    Overall, I believe Daniel Glick 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.”

    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 and why he “got onto the Mortenson story” (but, just like Mortenson, Krakauer isn’t yet talking to the press).

    “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)

    • Max

       Criticisms of Mortenson, incl Krakauer’s all noted how great CAI’s mission is and agreed on what a great guy Mortenson is personally before twisting the knife.

      It seems fair to conclude Mortenson is no businessman and surely no bean-counter.  Further he has or had no bean-counters to keep the accounts in shape.

      Before donating to CAI, I contacted it to request an annual report.  When the answer was they did not prepare one, I concluded CAI ran a very slack ship, but not that Mortenson was therefore a crook.  Imagining that a MT-based charity might not have swarms of Wharton-trained accountants to choose from is no strain. 

      Long story short, I did not contribute to CAI.  I agree with Montag: Krakauer may protest admiration for Mortenson to show how big-hearted he is, but krakauer is no more than a smiler with a knife at the ready under his cape.

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