Well Crap. Right after I post about how much I like a book, it ends up on every news channel as somewhat exaggerated and potentially fabricated. Not the best way to impress your friends and family, huh?
After reviewing both sides of the story and looking through several sources, a couple of themes start to stand out. First, it sounds like some of the dates or 'when' things happen in Three Cups of Tea have been compressed. Three trips to a village in real life turn into one in the book. One conversation was actually several. Etc. Second, his organization (The Central Asian Institute) needs to spend some serious time and effort cleaning up their finances. Audits, advertising, travel accounts. The works. You can't claim to be a tiny non-profit when you have a best selling book and receive millions of dollars in donations each year.
So the news is disappointing on several accounts. The fact that the book isn't 100% true as depicted is a bit of a bummer. But I do recall saying in the original post:
"While I fully expect everything in the book to be true, if only 10% of what he wrote is factual, it's still one of the most amazing stories I have ever read."
So I think I'm covered. Right?
In my opinion the news coverage has left a little to be desired. One report questioned whether or not the author's captors (when Mortenson was taken prisoner) were actually in the Taliban, by asking them "Are you in the Taliban?" Maybe they were or maybe they were not Taliban, but I'm not sure simply asking them fulfills a journalist's responsibility of investigating a story. Fortunately, despite the drama and discrepancies, in the end schools still got built, thousands of children got an education, and millions of dollars went towards preventing at-risk kids from poverty and potentially, in some cases, lives dedicated to unfathomable atrocities. This doesn't absolve Mortenson of all wrong doing, but at least for me it helps keep things in perspective.
I would recommend coming to your own conclusions however. This story goes into pretty good detail:http://outsideonline.com/adventure/travel-ga-greg-mortenson-interview-sidwcmdev_155690.html
And this shows a little more: http://today.msnbc.msn.com/id/26184891/#42658438
Now if a story comes out suggesting 'About Beer' was lying about lagers and ales, then I'm calling it quits ;)