A 60 Minutes investigation alleges that the inspirational multimillion seller Three Cups of Tea is filled with inaccuracies and that co-author Greg Mortenson's charitable organization has taken credit for building schools that don't exist.
The report, which airs Sunday night on CBS television, cites Into the Wild author Jon Krakauer as among the doubters of Mortenson's story of being lost in 1993 while mountain climbing in rural Pakistan and stumbling upon the village of Korphe, where the kindness of local residents inspired him to build a school.
The 60 Minutes story draws upon observations from the porters who joined Mortenson on his mountain trip in Pakistan and dispute his being lost. They say he only visited Korphe a year later.
The 60 Minutes report alleges that numerous schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan that Mortenson's Central Asia Institute is said to have established either don't exist or were built by others. According to the CAI's website, the institute has "successfully established over 170 schools" and helped educate over 68,000 students, with an emphasis on girls' education."
Author defends book
In a statement issued Friday through the institute, Mortenson defended the book he co-authored with David Oliver Relinhis, and his humanitarian work.
"Afghanistan and Pakistan are fascinating, inspiring countries, full of wonderful people. They are also complex places, torn by conflicting loyalties, and some who do not want our mission of educating girls to succeed," Mortenson said.
"I stand by the information conveyed in my book and by the value of CAI's work in empowering local communities to build and operate schools that have educated more than 60,000 students. I continue to be heartened by the many messages of support I receive from our local partners in cities and villages across Afghanistan and Pakistan, who are determined not to let unjustified attacks stop the important work being done to create a better future for their children."
Three Cups of Tea was released by Penguin in 2006. Spokeswoman Carolyn Coleburn declined comment, saying the publisher had not seen the 60 Minutes story. The book sold moderately in hardcover, but was a word-of-mouth hit as a paperback and became an international sensation, selling more than 3 million copies.
Mortenson has received numerous honors, including the Sitara-e-Pakistan (Star of Pakistan), a civilian award rarely given to foreigners.