Greg Mortenson found a vocal ally.
A climbing partner of the embattled Three Cups of Tea author came to the defence of the Central Asia Institute founder.
In an email to Outside, Scott Darsney — who hiked with Mortenson during the failed K2 ascent after which he supposedly stumbled upon the village of Korphe — argued that people are focusing too much on the mistaken details and not enough on the amazing work the CAI has done to promote education.
“If Jon Krakauer and some of Greg’s detractors had taken the time to have three or more cups of tea with Greg and others — instead of one cup of tea with a select few who would discredit him — they would have found some minor problems and transgressions,” he wrote. “But to the extent to call it all ‘lies’ and ‘fraud’? No way.”
Darsney’s point, while well-stated, misses the bigger issue: Krakauer and Mortenson’s other critics heaped praise on the founder — from Krakauer’s interview with 60 Minutes: “He has become perhaps the world’s most effective spokesperson for girls’ education in developing countries. And he deserves credit for that.”
They worry, understandably, that his bending of the truth distorts the message. If Mortenson skewed some facts in his memoir, it is reasonable to ask what else he was changing or hiding?
This leads to the allegations of financial impropriety, a bigger problem that Darsney’s email barely addresses.
“If Greg is misappropriating funds, then show me the luxury cars, fancy boats, and closets full of shoes. This is not a ‘ministry’ or a business gone corrupt,” he wrote. “Are there not other NGOs and nonprofits that stray now and then? Don’t they also spend more internally as they get bigger, especially when growing quickly? But their intent and purpose still stay on the course of the mission.”
Charities do grow and need to spend increasing amounts of cash, but there is a huge difference between “straying now and then” and Mortenson regarding “CAI as his personal ATM.”
Until that matter is cleared up, the jury will remain out, no matter how many former climbing partners articulate their support of Greg Mortenson the person.