When Greg Mortenson, author of “Three Cups of Tea”, visited TCU’s campus earlier this semester he was celebrated for his philanthropic work in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Now, his reputation is in danger.
On April 17, “60 Minutes” aired a 15 minute long investigation of both Mortenson’s stories and financial responsibility.
Jon Krakauer, a former donor to Mortenson’s Central Asia Institute (CAI) and author of “Into Thin Air” and “Into the Wild” was just one of Mortenson’s accusers. Of Mortenson’s story of stumbling into the village of Korphe and being nursed back to health after a failed attempt to climb K2 Krakauer said, “it’s a beautiful story and it’s a lie.”
Krakauer is not the only one upset with claims made in Three Cups of Tea. Some of the men who supposedly kidnapped Mortenson during a trip to find a new school site are also upset.
Jon Kroft of “60 Minutes” found and spoke with two men pictured with Mortenson as his “captors” in “Three Cups of Tea”. They say they are not members of the Taliban and definitely did not hold Mortenson captive during his visit.
Mortenson is in hot water, but regardless of the recent accusations, two TCU faculty members still believe in the greatness of his message.
Director of the TCU Center for International Studies, Jane Kucko, said she thinks the journalism employed by “60 Minutes” raises questions about the legitimacy of the accusations. She said the aggressive attempts to catch Mortenson by surprise did not come across as responsible journalism. She also said that Mortenson’s demeanor during his campus visit made it hard for her to think he had a malicious intent in his less than perfect financial practices.
Jeff Giraud, Professor of Communication, used Three Cups of Tea as part of his course curiculum. He and other professors held a Pennies for Peace benefit walk and Giraud’s class alone raised $2,000 for the CAI.
Giraud said, “with so much of the data in question I would have difficulty with the integrity of putting that in front of my students.”
In the end, both Kucko and Giraud still said they think the book has a positive purpose. “I still believe it is good. It does tell a very good message,” said Giraud.
“I think it’s a very amazing story,” said Kucko. “And just to come in and try to bring that all down in a 15 minutes report that doesn’t even present the other side. I remain a believer.”