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Greg Mortenson: “I Let a Lot of People Down”

Greg Mortenson: “I Let a Lot of People Down”

Greg Mortenson, laying low since allegations of financial malfeasance and inaccurate accounts of his actions in Three Cups of Tea, admitted that the accusations were correct — and he regretted them.

Speaking with Tom Brokaw on the Today Show, Mortenson said all the events in Three Cups of Tea took place, just not in the order presented in the book and two subsequent sequels. In Three Cups of Tea, Mortenson detailed how a failed attempt at climbing K2, the world’s second-tallest mountain, led him to a remote village, inspiring him to raise money to build schools in Afghanistan and Pakistan and help the less fortunate. His account of the journey was taken down by environmental writer Jon Krakauer in a widely cited Kindle single, while CBS’s 60 Minutes followed up with a report that questioned the spending practices of Mortenson’s charity and whether it was set up to promote Three Cups of Tea versus benefiting the Afghanistan and Pakistan schools.

In the end, Mortenson reached a settlement with the State of Montana and then-Attorney General Steve Bullock to return $1 million to his Bozeman-based charity (Central Asia Institute) and restructure its management. And he’s laid low since the April 2012 settlement.

Greg Mortenson and Tom Brokaw

Now, almost two years later, Mortenson told Brokaw that the allegations were basically accurate, though he hedged a tad, arguing that the process of editing a long manuscript forced him to change some specifics:

“I stand by the stories. The stories happened, but … not in the sequence or the timing,” Mortenson told Brokaw.

“What I regret is that we were under tremendous pressure to bring about a million words down to 300,000 words.”…

Mortenson said he’s spent a lot of time owning up to his mistakes.

“Yes, I’ve talked to people who were very adamant that I make changes. I have apologized to them,” he said. “I’d also like to apologize to everybody. I let a lot of people down.”

Now, it’s pretty apparent there’s some hedging going on, and the events certainly hampered the ability of the Central Asia Institute to raise money: In a 2013 financial report (the most recent one filed online), contributions went from $15.39 million in FY2011 to $4.79 million in FY2012.

RELATED STORIES: Two Montana Residents File Suit Against Greg Mortenson, While Others Defend Him; The Greg Mortenson We Knew

Top image from the American Library Association, via flickr.com. Bottom image courtesy Today Show.

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