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Nov 30

Written by: Diana West
Wednesday, November 30, 2011 4:28 AM 

Happier days.

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Greg Mortenson update.

NPR reported on October 3 that legal action against Mortenson continues to grind ahead in both a class action suit brought on behalf of the four to five million people who bought Three Cups of Tea or Stones into Schools, and a fraud investigation by the Montana Attorney General's office. As a  reporter for the Missoulian newspaper noted, "Greg Mortenson has been silent on this. He did not come to the court hearing two weeks ago in Missoula. His schedule on his website has been unavailable for appearances. He has been recovering from heart surgery he had back in June. So he's just a no-show."

But it turns out he almost made a scheduled November 12 appearance at a senior center in Southern California where he would have collected a cool $38,000 just for showing up. And he would have collected $19,000 if the seniors had cancelled him -- even after 60 Minutes exposed his work as fraudulent in April. Penguin "yanked the author," according to the Daily Pilot via OCWeekly.com, so no one owes anyone anything.     

The Daily Pilot reports that Mortenson's agent at publishing house Penguin yanked the author from his scheduled Saturday appearance at the OASIS Senior Center in Corona del Mar as part of the Newport Beach Public Library Foundation's Martin W. Witte Distinguished Speakers Lecture Series. The advice to cancel apparently came from Mortenson's lawyer, and the author has reportedly scrubbed all speaking engagements for the rest of this year.

The 60 Minutes segment was actually based on the account of another author, Jon Krakauer, who challenged some of Mortenson's assertions in the exposé "Three Cups of Deceit." Krakauer, mountaineers and several people who knew Mortenson during his Afghanistan and Pakistan trips questioned for the CBS news program the timing of events Mortenson purported, whether the author was really kidnapped by the Taliban as he asserted and, most damning of all, whether schools his nonprofit raised money for were ever built or, if they were, ever operated when cameras were not around after the ribbon cuttings. Some were abandoned by the time 60 Minutes' cameras pulled up.

Mortenson apparently told Montana's Bozeman Daily Chronicle that he compressed some events in his life story for the sake of storytelling. And he defended his charity's work, saying he has donated more than $100,000 of his own money to the institute and did some speaking engagements for free. The Corona del Mar appearance was not one of those. He'd been contracted to receive $38,000, and the nonprofit library foundation would have lost a $19,000 deposit if it cancelled, even after the exposés.

Now, with Penguin pulling the plug, the money will be returned to the foundation, as will the price of tickets to the 150 who'd already purchased seats to hear Mortenson's tales.

Tall tales.

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