Pakistani Tribesman to Sue Greg Mortenson over Kidnapping Claims in '3 Cups of Tea'

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"60 Minutes" reported allegations of fabrication against Greg Mortenson. Since that report, a man accused by Mortenson of kidnapping intends to file a lawsuit. (Credit: YouTube, CBSNewsOnline)

At least one of the Pakistani tribesman accused in Three Cups of Tea by author Greg Mortenson of kidnapping is suing Mortenson for those libelous and false allegations, the Guardian reported.

As iMediaethics reported this week, CBS’ 60 Minutes and author Jon Krakauer accuse Mortenson of fabricating and conflating parts of his memoir and that his nonprofit Central Asia Institute is like Mortenson’s “private ATM.”

Mortenson had written in his memoir Three Cups of Tea that he was “kidnapped by the Taliban and held hostage in Waziristan.” He included a photo of “a dozen tribesmen, some armed, who were supposedly holding him captive.”

According to one of the men pictured, Mansur Khan Mahsud, Mortenson visited his Waziristan village six years before the Taliban arrived, but Mahsud never kidnapped him and wasn’t Taliban. Mahsud criticized Three Cups of Tea and claimed that Mortenson’s depiction of events defamed him.

“It’s lies from A to Z. There’s not one word of truth. If there had been a little exaggeration, that could have been forgiven. The way that he’s portrayed the Mahsuds, as hash-smoking bandits, is wrong. He’s defamed me, my family, my tribe. We are respected people in my area. He’s turned us into kidnappers.”

Mahsud reportedly didn’t know about the claims until Jon Krakauer, who publicly contested Mortenson’s book on 60 Minutes, located Mahsud.

This lawsuit reminds iMediaEthics of our investigation into Jared Diamond’s April 21 2008 New Yorker article, “Annals of Anthropology: Vengeance Is Ours: What can tribal societies tell us about our need to get even?”

Our fact-checking led to two Papua New Guineans, Hup Daniel Wemp and Henep Isum Mandingo, both cited as tribal revenge murderers in Diamond’s article, to cry libel against what the New Yorker soon admitted were unfact checked claims. Later the tribesmen, along with John Mako Kuwimb, a tribal lawyer’s help  filed two defamation lawsuits, one in New York State against Jared Diamond and the New Yorker, and the other in Louisiana, against the Times-Picayune, for repeating the libelous charges of criminality.

Meanwhile, Nicholas Kristof, “a friend of Mortenson’s” and a New York Times columnist, advised that people “reserve judgment” on the allegations and claimed Mortenson is “utterly disorganized,” which could explain part of the financial issues at Central Asia Institute.

As TIME noted, the credibility of two of Krakauer’s sources may be questionable as one is “a self-confessed [though penitent] embezzler who ran Mortenson’s operations in Pakistan” and another is “a con man and a fugitive from the law.”

CBS News reported that “external lawyers for CAI warned in January that Mortenson could conceivably be liable for as much as $23 million in back taxes and penalties tied to ‘excess benefits’ he received from CAI thru 2009.”

CAI reportedly has paid for some of Mortenson’s traveling arrangements.  According to the report aired on 60 Minutes about CAI’s 2009 spending, only 41% “went to schools.” As the Christian Science Monitor noted, the CAI claims to have built 170 schools, but 60 Minutes claims “many” of those “either don’t exist, were built by others, or are not being used as schools.”

Meanwhile, the CAI has brought in considerable and noteworthy donations, including $100,000 of U.S. President Barack Obama’s 2008 Nobel Peace Prize.

Also in question is the fate of an award recently given to Mortenson. TIME magazine reported that earlier this month, the University of Louisville gave Mortenson its $100,000 2011 Grawemeyer education award. The award was given two days before the expose was broadcast by 60 Minutes.

According to TIME, the school hasn’t “decided whether to rescind the award.”

iMediaEthics is writing the book’s publisher for comment.

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Pakistani Tribesman to Sue Greg Mortenson over Kidnapping Claims in ‘3 Cups of Tea’

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