Three Cups of Deceit

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Three Cups of Deceit - How Greg Mortenson, Humanitarian Hero, Lost His Way
Softcover edition
AuthorJon Krakauer
CountryUnited States
Publication date
April 20, 2011
Media typee-book
Pages96 pp.
Preceded byWhere Men Win Glory 
Followed byMissoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town 

Three Cups of Deceit: How Greg Mortenson, Humanitarian Hero, Lost His Way is a 2011 e-book written by Jon Krakauer about Three Cups of Tea (2007) and Stones into Schools (2009) author Greg Mortenson. In it, Krakauer disputes Mortenson's accounts of his experiences in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and accuses him of mishandling funds donated to his charity, Central Asia Institute ("CAI").


Krakauer was featured during a CBS 60 Minutes report on April 17, 2011, where 60 Minutes reporter Steve Kroft raised questions about humanitarian Greg Mortenson and the non-profit Central Asia Institute (CAI). Krakauer questioned the accuracy of events in Mortenson's book Three Cups of Tea and whether Mortenson was kidnapped by the Taliban in 1996 as described in his second book, Stones into Schools. Krakauer went on to question Mortenson's credibility through the financial practices of CAI. Krakauer had been a financial supporter of Mortenson's work and had previously donated $75,000 before becoming disillusioned with him and his management of CAI.[1] The 60 Minutes story largely retraced the conclusions Krakauer came to as described in Three Cups of Deceit.[2]

The book was released the day after the 60 Minutes piece aired, initially available on a limited basis at for free download in April 2011.[3] It has since been released in a number of digital formats. The Kindle Single edition e-book rose to number one on Kindle Single's bestseller's list.[4] On July 1, 2011 the book was released as a paperback edition published by Anchor Books.[5] A much expanded, revised, and updated edition was published in November 2014.[6]


Krakauer has received both criticism and praise for the book Three Cups of Deceit. The e-book was described as both "Krakauer's fact-based gut-punch to Three Cups of Tea" and to "have a bit of a 'jilted lover' feel to it" by Chamber Four online book reviewer Marcos Velasquez, who congratulated Krakauer on the book's release.[7] A starred review in Publishers Weekly proclaimed, "Packed with interviews and anecdotes that undercut Mortenson's image as a cheerful do-gooder, Krakauer's account of good intentions gone horribly wrong is a stunning example of investigative journalism".[8] Critics of Krakauer's work, however, have said Krakauer's focus is in the wrong direction.

Marjorie Kehe, books editor for The Christian Science Monitor, stated in her article on Krakauer's book, "...having read and fully digested Three Cups of Deceit, I can still identify...fundamental truths in both of Mortenson's books, Three Cups of Tea and Stones Into Schools. Kehe went on to state, "Most of us, if we had established one such school – or even played a part in doing so – might feel that we had justified our very existences by that act. Mortenson has done this many, many times over. I'm not saying that this makes any wrongs he has committed right. It doesn't. But it certainly ought to be weighed in the balance."[9]

As a response to Krakauer's allegations, CAI produced a comprehensive list of projects completed over a period of years and projects CAI is currently working on. The list was released in December, 2011.[10]


Scott Darsney, a respected mountaineer and friend of Greg Mortenson, wrote a response to Krakauer's allegations that was published as an exclusive article in Outside magazine's online version.[11] Darnsey's response questioned the accuracy and fairness of both the Krakauer piece and the 60 Minutes report. He further stated that Krakauer either misquoted or misunderstood what he said when interviewed by the author. Darnsey went on to say that Krakauer took Mortenson's experiences in Afghanistan and Pakistan out of context and added, "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. But to the extent to call it all 'lies' and 'fraud'? No way." Darnsey stated in reference to the possibility that Mortenson has been dishonest in his financial dealings through CAI, "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." The Outside article also touched on the allegations that Mortenson lied about being held captive by the Taliban. In light of that controversy, Darnsey stated, "Greg recounted to me his imprisonment in Waziristan when I met him in Beijing. I don't doubt that he was held against his will." Darnsey's article went on to say that Krakauer is a respected journalist and a "stickler for details and getting the facts straight", but that he felt "the research needs to continue".

In February 2012, it was reported that an investigation by the Montana Attorney General was underway.[12]

On April 5, 2012, the Montana Attorney General's office released a report noting financial "missteps" by CAI and Greg Mortenson. The Attorney General reached a settlement for restitution from Mortenson to CAI in excess of $1 million.[13]

According to the May 3, 2013, issue of The Los Angeles Times, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco upheld the 2012 federal dismissal by Judge Samuel Haddon in Montana, stating he had ruled in accordance to the laws and rules governing class action suits.[14] Haddon ruled correctly that readers were not entitled to financial compensation based on any of the arguments presented by the plaintiffs. The suit was filed days after the publication of the above titled book, as well as the "60 Minutes" presentation.[14]

According to Central Asia Institute's Board chairman, Steve Barrett, announced on October 9, 2013, that the CAI and Mortenson have fully complied with all the specific actions and repayments as negotiated by the settlement with then Attorney General (now Governor) Steve Bullock.[15]

Journalists Jennifer Jordan and Jeff Rhoads began investigating the claims against Mortenson and made a 2016 documentary 3000 Cups of Tea. In the film, Jordan claims that the accusations against Mortenson put forward by 60 Minutes and Jon Krakauer are largely not true.[16]


  1. ^ "CBS News 60 Minutes". Retrieved April 17, 2011.
  2. ^ "Byliner". Retrieved 2014-02-20.
  3. ^ Krakauer, Jon (April 2011). Three Cups of Deceit (excerpt).
  4. ^ Canon, Gabrielle (April 20, 2011). "'Three Cups Of Tea' Author Greg Mortenson Still Being Burned By Fraud Scandal". Huffington Post. HuffPost Impact.
  5. ^ Krakauer, Jon (July 2011). Three Cups of Deceit. Anchor. ISBN 978-0307948762.
  6. ^ Krakauer, Jon (November 2014). Three Cups of Deceit: How Greg Mortenson, Humanitarian Hero, Lost His Way (Second ed.). Anchor Books. Retrieved 29 November 2017.
  7. ^ "Review: Three Cups Of Deceit". Chamber Four. 5 May 2011.
  8. ^ "Nonfiction review: Three Cups of Deceit". Publishers Weekly. 25 July 2011.
  9. ^ Marjorie Kehe (May 4, 2011). "What I Do Believe About "Three Cups of Tea"". The Christian Science Monitor.
  10. ^ "Comprehensive list of CAI projects past and present" (PDF). December 2011. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2011-10-12.
  11. ^ "Scott Darnsey Outside Magazine exclusive". Archived from the original on June 7, 2011. Retrieved February 20, 2014.
  12. ^ Alex Heard (February 12, 2012). "The Trials of Greg Mortenson". Outside. Retrieved February 13, 2012. Mortenson still isn't talking. But the case is heating up, with important developments in the lawsuit and hints that the A.G.'s probe could go badly for CAI.
  13. ^ "Montana Attorney General's Investigative Report of Greg Mortenson and Central Asia Institute" (PDF). April 5, 2012. Retrieved 2014-02-20. We entered into a settlement agreement with Mortenson and CAI which guarantees in excess of $1 million in restitution from Mortenson for his past financial transgressions
  14. ^ a b Kellogg, Carolyn (October 11, 2013). "Fraud suit against Greg Mortenson's '3 Cups of Tea' rejected – Los Angeles Times". Retrieved 2014-02-20.
  15. ^ "Central Asia Institute " October 9, 2013: Federal appeals court affirms dismissal of case against CAI and Mortenson". October 9, 2013. Archived from the original on December 23, 2014. Retrieved February 20, 2014.
  16. ^ Means, Sean P. (2016-09-24). "Documentary '3,000 Cups of Tea' to debut". The Salt Lake Tribune. Retrieved 2023-05-23.

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