UPDATE: Mortenson Q&A on 60 Minutes Piece

Aaron Flint posted on April 18, 2011 12:21 :: 2103 Views

UPDATE:  Central Asia Institute founder and Three Cups of Tea author Greg Mortenson has only done a limited number of interviews following a critical piece by 60 Minutes. And now, in an interview with Outdoor magazine, he denies a key accusation in the 60 Minutes report.

Here’s an excerpt from a lengthy question and aswer session with Outdoor magazine.   Click here to read in full.

Mortenson added that it was the discussion about building a school that didn’t actually happen until a year later.

Regarding the question over why Mortenson and the CAI board chose not to conduct interviews with Steve Kroft and Jon Krakauer, here’s what Mortenson also told Outdoor:


Mortenson Responds to 60 Minutes Piece

Three Cups of Tea author, and Bozeman resident, Greg Mortenson is responding to a 60 Minutes piece critical of Mortenson and his charity organization that has helped build hundreds of schools for girls in Afghanistan and Pakistan. 

60 Minutes opened their piece with this:

Last fall, we began investigating complaints from former donors, board members, staffers, and charity watchdogs about Mortenson and the way he is running his non-profit organization. And we found there are serious questions about how millions of dollars have been spent, whether Mortenson is personally benefiting, and whether some of the most dramatic and inspiring stories in his books are even true.

A full response from Mortenson can be found here.  Here’s part of what he had to say:

I welcome and am used to facing criticism, which sometimes even turns into hostility and threats, over the important work we do in Pakistan and Afghanistan. As an introvert and shy person, it is also not easy to have to enter an arena of a media circus at the drop of a heartbeat. But, as those of you who know me and have supported my work over the years will recognize, the story being framed by “60 Minutes” to air in a few hours today – as far as we can tell — paints a distorted picture using inaccurate information, innuendo and a microscopic focus on one year’s (2009) IRS 990 financial, and a few points in the book “Three Cups of Tea” that occurred almost 18 years ago.  

The Board of Directors and I made the very difficult decision to not engage with “60 Minutes” on camera, after they attempted an eleventh hour aggressive approach to reach me, including an ambush in front of children at a book signing at a community service leadership convention in Atlanta. It was clear that the program’s disrespectful approach would not result in a fair, balanced or objective representation of our work, my books or our vital mission. We also turned down a last minute request for an interview with Jon Krakauer.

The AP added this:

The “60 Minutes” report alleges that numerous schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan that Mortenson’s Central Asia Institute is said to have established either don’t exist or were built by others. According to the CAI’s website, the institute has “successfully established over 170 schools” and helped educate over 68,000 students, with an emphasis on girls’ education.”

Meanwhile, The Bozeman Daily Chronicle sheds more light on the disputed timeline mentioned in Mortenson’s book, while a Chronicle editor is also defending Mortenson.

“As the co-author of the book, along with David Oliver Relin, I am responsible for the content in the book. There were many people involved in the story and also those who produced the manuscript. What was done was to simplify the sequence of events for the purposes of telling what was, at times, a complicated story.”

Karin Ronnow, the Chronicle’s assistant managing editor, has been reporting extensively on Mortenson since 2007, visiting schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan. “He sees a huge need and he is always pushing forward to try and meet that need,” she said. Every time she sees Mortenson in Pakistan, “someone else is waiting there to say, ‘Can you help us? Can you help our children?’

“Bottom line, Greg can be a difficult person to work with, often stretched way too thin and constantly on the road. But he is not a liar,” Ronnow said.

Click here to read the full article.

Bozeman Chronicle editor: Mortenson is not a liar.

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