Move over, James Frey, it looks like there may be a new contender for Author Whose Wildly Popular Memoir Was Greatly Augmented by a Non-Trivial Amount of Bull Poop.
Best-selling author Greg Mortenson—a man nominated twice for the Nobel Peace Prize—is currently under fire for allegations he lied about parts of his book Three Cups of Tea. A 60 Minutes report that aired on Sunday alleges that Mortenson fabricated key events in his memoir set in Afghanistan and Pakistan, including a story about being kidnapped for eight days by the Taliban.
Mortenson's Three Cups of Tea was so well received, he became something of a folk hero, and earned millions in book royalties and speaking fees. More importantly to humanitarian efforts in Afghanistan and Pakistan, he's pulled in $60 million in donations to his nonprofit Central Asia Institute.
So if it turns out his inspiring story is actually fictional ... does it really matter?
Well, sure it does. For one thing, Mortenson was respected as an authority on those regions, to the point where General David Petraeus consulted with him to set up meetings between the U.S. military and village elders. If it was all "a beautiful story, and a lie,” as his former friend, journalist Jon Krakauer said, that's more than a little disturbing.
Mortenson also claims to have built more than 140 schools through the Central Asia Institute, a figure that's now being disputed. There are concerns about how the nonprofit is operating, and whether he's allocating some of the funds for his own personal use.
However, even if the book is full of crap and the nonprofit isn't completely on the up and up, it seems he's still created some kind of positive impact through the institute that may not have happened otherwise. Maybe it can even be said a book based on half-truths created awareness about some much-needed humanitarian and education related efforts, and there's value to that.
On the other hand, it certainly takes a special kind of evil to profit from pretending to be a national hero.
It'll be interesting to see how this story shakes out, don't you think? What's your take on the allegations against Greg Mortenson?
Image via ThreeCupsofTea.com