Another “non-fiction” best-seller bites the dust. It appears Greg Mortenson was at times more interested in self-promotion and puffery than the truth when he “wrote” Three Cups of Tea: One Man’s Mission to Promote Peace… One School at a Time. (It’s obvious to me, that the bulk of the writing in this collaborative effort went to the actual trained writer: David Oliver Relin.) Things turned south for this feel-good publishing phenomenon (years and years on the New York Times bestseller list!), when the muckraking CBS television newsmagazine 60 Minutes revealed on Sunday that facts in the book were in serious dispute, and that the organization that Mortenson founded to promote education in Pakistan and Afghanistan was funneling money, lots of it, to him instead.
Viking, the book’s publisher, has announced that it will “carefully review the materials” in question with Mortenson. As for the “author,” he is in ultra-spin mode, issuing a carefully worded non-denial denial, calling the 60 Minutes report “a distorted picture,” but not addressing the specific allegations head-on.
Mortenson has clearly done some good work, but it’s also clear that he’s been engaging in several shady hustles. He should have listened more closely to his better angels.