Monday, April 18, 2011

60mins Expose of Mortenson - And He Responds.

By now you will have heard and read of the 60mins piece that exposed yet another literary faker. Greg Mortenson, who wrote (the now apparently fictional) Three Cups of Tea, has actively participated in the education and emancipation of students and young girls in Afghanistan and Pakistan; however, according to CBS all his good work is based on a fiction. Even worse, there's the suspicion that in intermingling his business and charity works, it is the charity work which is getting short shrift. If you haven't seen the 60mins piece the link is here.

Meanwhile Mortenson has responded in an exclusive interview in Outside magazine and here are a few samples:

What happens then is, when you re-create the scenes, you have my recollections, the different memories of those involved, you have his writing, and sometimes things come out different. In order to be convenient, there were some omissions. If we included everything I did from 1993 to 2003 it would take three books to write it. So there were some omissions and compressions, and ... I don’t know, what that’s called?

Literary license?
Yeah. So, rather than me going two or three times to one place, he would synthesize it into one trip. I would squawk about it and be told that it would all work out.

This was my first book. I’m an introverted guy, running ragged for months on end, and in those days I was overseas all the time, and also trying to raise money. My regret—what I wish I would have done—is that I should have taken off several months and really focused on the book. But I was trying to raise a family, be gone most of the year, and work 16- to 20-hour days without stopping.


60 Minutes focused on financial matters, relating to the blurry lines between CAI, which is a tax-exempt nonprofit, and you, an individual who sells books and collects lecture fees at events promoted by CAI advertising. I’ve also heard from sources who have criticized the fact that you often use a charter jet when you fly around to engagements. What do you say to all that?

If you go to the Web sites for Stones Into Schools or Three Cups of Tea, I have most of my public events listed for the last five or six years. Last year I went to 140 cities, something like that, and I also traveled overseas plus trying to be home whenever I can.

When I do events, it doesn’t just mean a lecture. I go early in the morning, often talk to local schools, and then maybe I do a luncheon at a library, in the afternoon I go to a college. I’m often doing five lectures a day, plus tea with some little old ladies at the library. Then there’s some kind of dinner or reception, the lecture, a book signing, and those go on for two or three hours sometimes.

Mostly what the charters involved was having a plane and then getting on that plane at midnight or one in the morning, flying to the next city, crashing on the plane, getting on the ground, and then hitting the road again.

Donors could really care less, I guess, but I was spending more and more time away from my family, and it was really having a huge impact on my wife and kids. Using charter flights, which I only started doing in 2009, allowed me to pack in many more cities. I get about 2,400 speaking requests a year. About 400 of the ones last year were offering to pay money. So I mix them. And, since January, I have totally paid for all my own travel.

There's a lot more in the article.


Brian O'Leary said...

I was prepared to grant him literary license, but this interview doesn't do him much good. He was busy, he was away from home, he was tired, and he flew around in a chartered jet that someone else paid for before this year. A little less whining and a little more transparency might be helpful.

MC said...

Agree - Apparently the Krakauer article is even harsher.