Follow Up on Three Cups

Last April, I wrote about the allegations made about misstatements found in Greg Mortenson’s books and allegations about misuse of funds from his charities, both Central Asia Institute  (CAI) and Pennies for Peace. See: Three Cups of Pennies.

The Montana Attorney General has concluded a year long investigation into Mortenson and CAI. The result? Financial mismanagement, with Mortenson having to pay CAI $1 million dollars. Jon Krakauer, who broke the story, updated his Byliner article (Three Cups of Deceit) with the news (he has been updating throughout the year). Krakauer also provides a link to the actual report by the Montana AG, for those so inclined to read it as opposed to reading people (like me!) just talking about it. I continue to be both impressed and appalled at CAI’s inability to “reign in” Mortenson, his spending, and his accounting. From the AG report, as quoted by Krakauer: “It is, however, one more example of an organization that is controlled by people with personal affinity for, and loyalty to, Mortenson.”

In addition to the ordered reimbursement, CAI was ordered to increase it’s board members; get all new board members; and, while retaining Mortenson, change his role/position within the organization.

Additional reports: “Three Cups” Author to Stay with Charity He Founded at New York Times; Greg Mortenson, “Three Cups of Tea” Author, to Repay Charity at New York Times.

8 thoughts on “Follow Up on Three Cups

  1. I would like to know if any school librarians have deleted Mortensen’s books from their collections. I have both “Three Cups of Tea” Young Reader’s Edition and “Listen to the Wind,” the picture book version.

    My inclination is to delete the books–people should not pass off events as true that didn’t happen. I remember Herman Rosenblatt’s Holocaust story “Angel Girl,” written by Laurie Friedman, was passed off as true but then later unveiled as fabrication. I pulled this book, but not before I had unwittingly read it to a library full of children for story time. Junior Library Guild had sent us the book as part of our monthly subscription. They sent us another book to replace if for free. It would be nice if the publisher of “Three Cups of Tea” would send offer purchasers another book upon the sending in of the false memoir.


  2. Melinda, that’s a good question. In terms of the books, it’s my understanding that some of the facts are disputed; so is that enough to remove an item from the collection? Is it best to move it from nonfiction to fiction? According to the byliner website, there is a current lawsuit that is more about the representations in the books. So maybe wait until further resolution?


  3. I had a similar issue with a book that proported to be an actual Holocaust memoir – Angel Girl. These people were even on Oprah talking about their “true love story.” The publisher offered refunds on the book. Many libraries still have the book on the shelf as non-fiction, biography, or as a picture book. I feel the whole book is sullied by the fabrication. I called one library to ask what they were doing, and the director got very defensive and asked if I was challenging the book. Another person told me to relax – the book would probably be weeded in the near future.

    I guess I was full of righteous indignation that people were lying to kids, but it seems to happen a little too frequently.


  4. I wonder about this also as it is not a clear cut case. Schools have been built in Afghanistan which is a worthy and wonderful thing. So to dismiss the books as purely fiction seems wrong. And yet, and yet…of course the irony is not lost on me that Krakauer brought Mortenson down when he pointedly left incorrect information about Chris McCandless’s cause of death in INTO THE WILD. (He claimed McCandless was poisoned even though he knew prior to publication that was not true.)



  5. Colleen — yes, some of the allegations are not fabrications (like with Angel Girl) but are rather exagerations, it seems, to add polish to make a story more story-worthy (if that makes sense): i.e., something like instead of saying 3 new schools saying 30 even though 3 was great to begin with. What I like about INTO THE WILD is that even though Krakauer was more into the romanticism of McCandless life and death, what I got out of it was that McC was foolish/arrogant (IMHO). So K gave enough to reach those conclusions even if they weren’t his own.


  6. I am pulling all three versions of the book from my elementary school library. If Mortenson ever redeems himself, and someone sees fit to publish a second round that explains his ups and downs, I’d consider buying it. But I really can’t see the benefit to kids learning about Mortenson’s story before it is complete. It’s not just the inaccuracies in the books, it’s the whole stealing millions of dollars thing too. Things move fast in developing nations and NGOs, and perhaps this is one area where books are not the best medium to keep up with what people are doing to improve the world while they’re still doing it. Periodicals and websites may be more timely.


  7. Liz, thanks for letting us know. Especially now as time has passed and more has been made aware of what was/ was not happening. Also, the reminder of the best sources for current topical info.


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