Greg Mortenson in more trouble: Montana AG investigating

Categories: Media

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Mortenson's original best seller.
Greg Mortenson, the mountaineer turned best-selling author and "Three Cups of Tea" do-gooder in Afghanistan, is in more trouble this morning.

Montana Attorney General Steve Bullock says he's looking into allegations that the Minnesota native may have illegally used profits from his Central Asia Institute for personal gain.

The Ramsey High School graduate is already under fire after a blistering take-down on "60 Minutes" and a savaging at the hands of journalist Jon Krakauer.

Both allege Mortenson fabricated huge portions of the personal narrative he tells in "Three Cups of Tea" about his struggle to build schools for poverty-stricken girls in Afghanistan, in the face of grim religious and cultural hostility. And they accuse him of using his fundraising machine as a personal ATM.

From Kralauer's online essay:

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Jon Krakauer punctures Greg Mortenson's carefully constructed image.
Mortenson didn't really stumble into Korphe after taking a wrong turn on his way down from K2. He wasn't lovingly nursed back to health in the home of Haji Ali. He set no villagers' broken bones. On that crisp September morn- ing, shortly before returning to America, Mortenson did not put his hands on Haji Ali's shoulders and promise to build a school. In fact, Mortenson would not even make the acquain- tance of Haji Ali, or anyone else in Korphe, until more than a year later, in October 1994, under entirely different circumstances.

The first eight chapters of Three Cups of Tea are an intricately wrought work of fiction presented as fact. And by no means was this an isolated act of deceit. It turns out that Mortenson's books and public statements are permeated with falsehoods. The image of Mortenson that has been created for public consumption is an artifact born of fantasy.

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Foreign Policy
The backlash is in full swing.
Why have so many people, from book club members to NGO leaders to the U.S. military's top brass, embraced the fiction woven around Mortenson? Here's one answer, from Foreign Policy: We want, maybe even need to believe in the transformative power of a single heroic person acting in the face of insurmountable odds. Another essay in the same magazine concludes we're all knaves for indulging in such a fantasy when it comes to Central Asia.

Mortenson, who was born in St. Cloud, where his mother and other relatives still live, now makes his home in Bozeman, Montana. And the Montana AG isn't concerned about foreign policy. Steve Bullock just wants to know whether Mortenson broke state law.

Mortenson, who has copped to some poetic license with his "Three Cups of Tea" co-author, denies he's done anything illegal.

Related: Mortenson responds to "60 Minutes" with "I'm not a journalist"

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