By Maryam Ansari, Esq.
We've reported on how author Greg Mortenson was found to be abusing his charity's funds. Now, the "Three Cups of Tea" author is being sued for allegedly fabricating the stories in his book, reports The Atlantic Wire.
Mortenson will be appearing today in a federal court in Great Falls, Montana.
The lawsuit is brought by four plaintiffs who also bring suit against co-author Oliver Relin, Penguin Group publishers, the Central Asia Institute and MC Consulting, a consulting group owned by Mortenson, according to The Associated Press. The suit alleges that the defendants were all involved in a conspiracy to sell Mortenson's books in a fraudulent scheme.
The scheme, plaintiffs claim, painted Mortenson as a hero and tricked readers into donating to his charity, the Central Asia Institute. The lawsuit seeks triple the amount of book sales plus punitive damages, asking for an order that everyone who purchases the book be refunded.
Mortenson's book came under public scrutiny after a "60 Minutes" investigation shed some light on the stories in "Three Cups of Tea."
The alleged fabrications in his book range from tall tales to outrageous inaccuracies. In one account, he claims holding Mother Teresa's hand, even though she had actually died three years earlier.
Penguin is defending the author, while dodging the question on the accuracy of the stories in the book. The publisher says that the reliability of autobiographies should not really be questioned, since autobiographies rely on the author's own recollections.
Mortenson's lawyers are arguing that the author is free to write his stories under the First Amendment's Free Speech clause.
The case of Greg Mortenson raises many questions. Does the First Amendment apply? Were Mortenson's stories harmless, or did they cheat millions of readers out of money? What is the standard for accuracy in autobiographies? Where does fiction begin and nonfiction end?
- '3 Cups of Tea' Author Greg Mortenson Owes His Charity $1M (FindLaw's Free Enterprise)
- Author Greg Mortenson faces civil suit over 'Three Cups of Tea' (US News)
- Update: Jon Krakauer slams Greg Mortenson in digital expose (The Washington Post)