“Three Cups of Tea” author Greg Mortenson, in his first one-on-one interview since “60 Minutes” aired allegations of fraud and fabrication, tells NBC-TV’s Tom Brokaw alarms went off as he was rearranging events in his memoir, but he pushed aside any concerns.
In an interview scheduled for broadcast Tuesday on “Today,” the Minnesota-born Mortenson contends that the poignant stories in his book did occur but not in the sequence presented.
“It still just has puzzled me and why there wasn’t, at some point, in your mind, an alarm that went off and said, ‘This just isn’t right in some way,’ ” Brokaw asked Mortenson, according to excerpts the network released Monday.
“There were alarms, Tom,” Mortenson responded. “I didn’t listen to them. I was willing to basically kill myself to raise money and help the projects.”
A 2011 “60 Minutes” report accused Mortenson of fabricating part of that memoir, specifically his tale of a failed mountain climb that left him dehydrated in the Pakistani village Korphe, where he was nursed back to health and vowed to repay the kindness by building a school. The show cited sources who say he first visited the village nearly a year after trying to climb Mount Everest.
The CBS News show said that it went to nearly 30 of the 54 schools Mortenson’s charity has built in Afghanistan and that roughly half were empty, built by someone else or not receiving support.
It also reported that financial records appear to show that the charity used contributions to pay for Mortenson’s speaking and book promotion tours but doesn’t share in his speaking fees or book profits.
His response soon after the “60 Minutes” report was that it presented “a distorted picture using inaccurate information [and] innuendo.”
Brokaw noted to Mortenson that “America is a country of second chances, if people learn from the first experience.”
To that, Mortenson said, “I’m going to try as hard as I can never to make the same mistakes again.”