‘60 Minutes’ Casts Doubt on Book

Saturday, April 16, 2011

An investigation by “60 Minutes” casts doubt on the accuracy of the inspirational best seller “Three Cups of Tea” by Greg Mortenson, saying it is filled with inaccuracies. It also says that Mr. Mortenson’s charitable organization, the Central Asia Institute, has taken credit for building schools that don’t exist.

The report, which will be broadcast Sunday night on CBS, questions the veracity of one of the most gripping stories in the book, Mr. Mortenson’s account of being lost in 1993 while mountain-climbing in rural Pakistan. Mr. Mortenson wrote that he stumbled upon the village of Korphe, where he was cared for by local residents, and that their kindness inspired him to build a school. The “60 Minutes” report draws on observations from the porters who joined Mr. Mortenson on his mountain trip and dispute his being lost. They say he only visited Korphe a year later.

The news report also says that some of the schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan that Mr. Mortenson’s charity is said to have established either don’t exist or were built by others.

In a statement issued through the institute, Mr. Mortenson defended the book, which he co-wrote with David Oliver Relin, and his humanitarian work.

“I stand by the information conveyed in my book and by the value of C.A.I.’s work in empowering local communities to build and operate schools that have educated more than 60,000 students,” the statement said.

“Three Cups of Tea” was released by Penguin in 2006. In a statement issued Saturday, the publisher said, “We rely on our authors to tell the truth and they are contractually obligated to do so.”

The book sold moderately in hardcover, but was a word-of-mouth hit as a paperback and sold more than 3 million copies.