The day after the CBS show 60 Minutes aired a report questioning the accuracy of Greg Mortenson's Three Cups of Tea and the author's management of his charity, Mortenson appears to be changing his story, if subtly.
In an interview with The Bozeman Daily Chronicle over the weekend, Mortenson (pictured above on left, with Mike Mullen, the Joint Chiefs chairman) said he stood by the information in his book, though he conceded that the story was a "compressed version of events." He added, "As the co-author of the book, along with David Oliver Relin, I am responsible for the content in the book." But in an interview with Outside Online today, Mortenson appears to shift some of the responsibility for that "compression" to Relin, whom he explains "did nearly all the writing" He notes that "rather than me going two or three times to one place, [Relin] would synthesize it into one trip. I would squawk about it and be told that it would all work out." When asked by Outside if he stood by his account in Three Cups of Tea of his first visit to the Pakistani village of Korphe--the seat of his inspiration to build schools for girls in Pakistan and Afghanistan--Mortenson said, "There are discrepancies that, again, have to do with compression of events."
The 60 Minutes segment also suggested that Mortenson hadn't been kidnapped by the Taliban in the Pakistani tribal region of Waziristan, as Mortenson claimed in the book. In a statement on Sunday, Mortenson claimed he was "detained" in the Pakistani tribal region of Waziristan in 1996. "A 'Talib' means student in Arabic, and yes
there were Taliban in the region. Waziristan is an area where tribal factions and clan ties run deep. Some people are Taliban, some are not, and affiliations change overnight often on a whim." In his interview with Outside today, however, Mortenson added, "All I know is that I was in the area where the Taliban had originated. They didn’t call themselves 'Taliban,' and maybe they were and maybe they weren't."
The allegations against Mortenson mounted on Monday. In a lengthy exposé, Jon Krakauer elaborated on his charges, first discussed in the 60 Minutes segment, that Mortenson fabricated parts of Three Cups of Tea and mismanaged his charity. Meanwhile, one man who Mortenson says detained him in Waziristan told CNN he plans to sue the author for defamation.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.