Three Cups of Tea author claims he is HAPPY his lies were exposed as he admits he 'Let a lot of people down'
- Greg Mortenson has given his first interview since 2011 controversy surrounding his memoir Three Cups of Tea
- Mortenson, 56, attempted to claim that he is happy his lies were exposed and apologized to those he let down
He maintains he did not lie about anything in his book
- Claims that he simply changed the order in which they occurred in his life for dramatic effects
- Stated that his desire to raise money for charity was so strong that he was willing to put his life on the line
- In the past Mortenson admitted there were 'omissions and compressions' in book
Published: 15:04 BST, 21 January 2014 | Updated: 18:59 BST, 21 January 2014
Three Cups of Tea author Greg Mortenson has made the unabashed claim that he is thankful to the reporters who exposed the fabrications in his New York Times best-selling book and accused him of mishandling money at his charity.
'In maybe a strange way, I’d like to thank CBS and Jon Krakauer because, had they not brought these issues up, we could have gotten into more serious problems,' said Mortenson, 56, about the 60 Minutes exposé and that of Into the Wild author Krakauer.
Speaking for the first time since the allegations of lying in print and appropriating money were first made in 2011, Mortenson said that the stories he recounted in his book did happen - but that he was forced to be creative because he was under a strict word limit.
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Admission: Greg Mortenson attempted to claim that he was thankful that all his fabrications in Three Cups of Tea were exposed - because it saved him bigger trouble in the future
'I stand by the stories. The stories happened, but … not in the sequence or the timing,' Mortenson told NBC's Tom Brokaw.
'What I regret is that we were under tremendous pressure to bring about a million words down to 300,000 words.'
Contrite: Mortenson was apologetic though to the people who thinks he let down with his inaccurate book which details his experiences in Afghanistan
After its release in 2006, Three Cups of Tea became a best seller and it, along with Mortenson's tireless promotion that included more than 500 speaking engagements in four years, resulted in tens of millions of dollars in donations to the Central Asia Institute - the charity he ran.
Three Cups of Tea details how Mortenson resolved to build schools in Central Asia after he became lost and wandered into a poor Pakistani village, then follows him as he expands his school-building efforts there.
The books came under scrutiny in 2011 when reports by 60 Minutes and author Jon Krakauer alleged that Mortenson fabricated parts of both and that he benefited financially from the charity.
Mortenson is alleged to have made up stories about how he built the schools and one particularly famous wrong recollection published is how he held Mother Teresa's hand while her body was lying in state in 2000.
Mother Teresa passed away in 1997 - the same week that Princess Diana lost her life in car crash in Paris.
Another claim, that he was kidnapped by Taliban on a visit in July 1996, was said to be untrue.
'I always have operated from my heart. I'm not a really head person. And I really didn't factor in the very important things of accountability, transparency,' Mortenson told Brokaw.
Charity: Greg Mortenson with local businesswomen in Gojal Hunza, in Pakistan - where his charity worked to improve the quality of life for people ther
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.'
But Mortenson said his cleanup effort remains a work in progress.
'In 'Three Cups of Tea,' the first chapter, the first word is 'failure.' I failed in many ways, and it's an important lesson,' he said.
'I'm going to try as hard as i can never to make the same mistakes again.'
In his first interview since 2011, when he was exposed as fabricating large parts of his best-selling book Three Cups of Tea - author Greg Mortenson has claimed that he did it because he was willing to 'kill himself' to raise money for impoverished people.
Speaking to NBC's Tom Brokaw Mortenson, 56, said that while he admitted to hearing the 'alarms' over his 2006 work, he refused to acknowledge them in case they deflected from his goal of boosting his humanitarian projects.
Famously claiming that he had met Mother Teresa, although she had died three years previously, Mortenson begs for a second chance in the exclusive interview and claims that he has settled all the allegations he mis-spent money from his charity flying around the world in his own private jet.
Claiming in his interview with Brokaw that events did transpire in Three Cups of Tea as he wrote them - just not in the order he outlined them - Mortenson said that he ignored the warning signs in his own mind not to do this and promised not to repeat his mistakes.
'It still just has puzzled me and why there wasn't, at some point, in your mind, an alarm that went off and said, 'this just isn't right in some way,' Brokaw asked in the interview.
Shamashatu, Pakistan: Greg Mortenson from Bozeman, Montana the former executive director of the Central Asia Institute, listens as newly arrived refugees from Afghanistan tell their stories on break from making bricks
'There were alarms, Tom,' Mortenson said. 'I didn't listen to them. I was willing to basically kill myself to raise money and help the projects.'
Mortenson himself reaped financial benefits at the expense of the CAI, including the free promotion of Three Cups of Tea and his later book, Stones Into Schools.
Fabrications: Mortenson's 2006 book "Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Promote Peace...One School at a Time" chronicled his failed attempt to climb K2
He also pocketed the royalties from thousands of copies CAI bought to donate to libraries, schools, churches and military personnel, a 2012 report by the Montana Attorney General said.
After that investigation Mortenson was ordered to reimburse his charity to the tune of more than million under a settlement agreement.
The book was originally conceived as a way to raise money and tell the story of the Central Asia Institute, which Mortenson founded in 1996 with a million donation from Dr. Jean Hoerni, a Swiss physicist and mountaineer.
Among many indescrepencies was Mr Mortenson's account that he wandered lost into the village of Korphe in Pakistan after trying to climb the world's second-highest peak, K2, then decided to build a school there.
His previous writings made no mention of his being lost or wandering into Korphe, and he also previously indicated that he originally planned to build that first school in another village.
The 2006 book Three Cups of Tea, which sold millions of copies, was conceived as a way to raise money and tell the story of his institute, founded by Mr Mortenson in 1996, and resulted in tens of millions of dollars in donations.
Mortenson has been accused in past lawsuits filed against him by readers of racketeering, fraud, deceit, breach of contract and unjust enrichment.
Tragic: David Oliver Relin (right), who co-wrote the best-seller Three Cups of Tea with Greg Mortenson (left), about how Mortenson set up schools in Afghanistan and Pakistan, has killed himself, aged 49
However, in the aftermath of the 60 Minutes investigation Mortenson was accused of mismanagement of the non-profit organization he co-founded to build schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan and spent millions of dollars of charity money on charter flights, family vacations and luxury personal items.
Mortenson's control of the Central Asia Institute went largely unchallenged by its board of directors, which consisted of himself and two people loyal to him, the report prepared by the Montana Attorney General's office said.
When an employee would question his practices, Mortenson either resisted or ignored the person.
The result was a lack of financial accountability in which large amounts of cash sent overseas were never accounted for. Itemized expenses listed as program-related were missing supporting receipts and documentation.
Employees and family members charged items such as health club dues and gifts to CAI credit cards.
In 2012, Mortenson was told he must reimburse the charity more than million under a settlement agreement - according to Montana's Attorney General.
The attorney general's probe focused only on the charity's finances and operations, and did not examine the books' contents.
The yearlong investigation from 2011 to 2012 concluded that the Central Asia Institute took in far more donations than it spent, and had million in reserves.
Scrutiny: The book follows the adventures of co-author Greg Mortenson, pictured in Wakhan, northeastern Afghanistan in 2009, as he set up schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan
The charity was judged to need better oversight so that too much control is not in one person's hands, the audit found.
‘Mortenson's pursuits are noble and his achievements are important. However, serious internal problems in the management of CAI surfaced,’ Attorney General Steve Bullock said in the report.
‘Despite the severity of their errors, CAI is worth saving.’
Mortenson was permanently removed as CAI's executive director in November, 2012.
Following the stresses and strains in the wake of the 60 Minutes piece, Mortenson had heart surgery.
The investigation by Montana's Attorney General also found that CAI spent .93million on advertising and promoting Mortenson's books, costs that the charity and the author had agreed to split but never did.
CAI paid million in charter flights for Mortenson to keep his rigorous speaking engagement schedule before he started paying for his own travel in 2011.
'Dishonest': But critics claimed some parts of the book had been fabricated and Mortenson, left, later admitted some facts were wrong. Relin suffered emotionally and financially in the aftermath
The investigation found that in many cases he was ‘double-dipping,’ where CAI paid for his travel to a speaking engagement and the host of the event also paid him a fee or honorarium for his travel, which Mortenson pocketed.
Mortenson and his family also charged personal items to CAI in 2009-2010 amounting to ,276 that included ‘LL Bean clothing, iTunes, luggage, luxurious accommodations and even vacations,’ according to the report.
The controversy became tragic in November of 2011 when co-author of Three Cups of Tea, David Oliver Relin committed suicide.
Relin suffered emotionally and financially after readers and critics doubted facts in the book.
Mortenson, 52, lives in Montana with his wife, a clinical psychologist, and their two young children.
His biography describes him as 'a living hero to rural communities of Afghanistan and Pakistan, where he has gained the trust of Islamic leaders, military and militia commanders, government officials and tribal chiefs from his tireless effort to champion education, especially for girls.'