The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

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University-endorsed memoir debunked

Last spring Greg Mortenson gave an inspirational speech to over 2,000 members of the University in Carnesecca Arena. This week he is being investigated by the Montana state attorney general.

Mortenson, a renowned humanitarian and best-selling author of  “Three Cups of Tea,” was the focus of a segment on CBS’ “60 Minutes” that alleged Mortenson fabricated parts of the memoir and used millions of dollars in donations to his charity for personal gain.

“Three Cups of Tea,” the required reading assigned to the class of 2013, details Mortenson’s journey through Pakistan and his efforts to build schools in the region. To date, Mortenson claims to have built dozens of schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan with his charity, the Central Asian Institute.

The “60 Minutes” segment called Mortenson’s story into question, alleging that the Central Asian Institute took credit for building schools that didn’t exist.

On April 19, Montana Attorney General Steve Bullock said he would open an investigation into the issues raised in the report.

“I’ve been in contact with attorneys for the Institute and they have pledged their full cooperation in addressing our concerns,” Bullock said in a statement. “My office will not jump to any conclusions — but we have a responsibility to make sure charitable assets are used for their intended purposes.”

Mortenson’s publisher, Viking Books, issued a short statement April 19 supporting the author.

“Greg Mortenson’s work as a humanitarian in Afghanistan and Pakistan has provided tens of thousands of children with an education,” the statement said.

The publisher added that in the wake of the “60 Minutes” report, they plan to “carefully review the materials” with Mortenson.

In “Three Cups of Tea,” Mortenson reports that he accidentally stumbled into Korphe, the Pakistani village where he built his first school, while returning from a mountain climbing expedition in September 1993. According to the “60 Minutes” report, Mortenson’s companions on the expedition say he didn’t actually visit the village until a year later.

The segment also disputed Mortenson’s claims that he was kidnapped by the Taliban and held for eight days in the village of Tehsil Ladha. Mortenson details the ordeal in “Three Cups of Tea,” and spoke about it in an interview with the Torch in January 2010.

“I was kidnapped in July of 1996,” Mortenson said. “I was detained for eight days by the Taliban. I didn’t ask permission to come in and be with them, I was actually looking for a place to build a school. I wasn’t treated very well.”

Mansur Khan Mahsud, a Pakistani scholar who accompanied Mortenson during the trip to Tehsil Lahdha, disputed Mortenson’s claims in the investigative report.

“Greg was never worried or frightened,” said Khan, who is now the director of Research and Administration at an internationally respected nonpartisan think tank. “He really enjoyed his stay there. He was an honored guest of the whole village.

There are photographs that show Mortenson smiling with the men he would later accuse of abducting him.

Mortenson did not respond to “60 Minutes” producers, but issued an April 15 statement through the Central Asian Institute.

“I stand by the information conveyed in my book and by the value of CAI’s work in empowering local communities to build and operate schools,” he said. said in the statement.

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