LITERARY LICENSE

Mortenson Defends His Memoir

He’s got some explaining to do: Greg Mortenson, recovering from a heart condition that has left him with breathing difficulty, spoke with Outside magazine about the damning allegations made by 60 Minutes that he made up parts of Three Cups of Tea. Mortenson points out that Three Cups of Tea was a joint project written by David Oliver Relin with Mortenson’s help. “It’s really complicated, but I’m not a journalist. I don’t take a lot of notes,” Mortenson acknowledges, and sometimes things got “compressed” or “omitted” for the sake of the story. “So, rather than me going two or three times to one place, he would synthesize it into one trip. I would squawk about it and be told that it would all work out.” When it comes to the charge that he fabricated a major scene in which he stumbles upon the village of Korphe after failing to summit K2, Mortenson says the allegations are “inaccurate.” Nevertheless, the scene was also “compressed”: When he first came upon Korphe, he stayed only a few hours, and then returned a year later to discuss building schools. As for the allegations that many of the schools Mortenson took credit for were never built, Mortenson says he was conned by a manager he’d put in charge of setting up schools in northern Pakistan.