Conflict & Justice

60 Minutes debunks Three Cups of Tea memoir

60 Minutes will this week air an expose accusing bestselling author Greg Mortensen -- whose inspirational Three Cups of Tea is ubiquitous in South Asian airports -- of inventing or exaggerating basic details of his supposedly true story, Time reports.

For those not familiar with the book (full disclosure: I haven't read it either), Three Cups of Tea purports to be the memoir of Mortensen's failed attempt to climb K2 and later rescue by the villagers of the remote mountain town of Korphe. He writes that in gratitude he built the village's first school, and then started a charity that has built nearly 200 schools in Pakistan. 

But 60 Minutes says that neither that basic storyline, nor Mortensen's claim that he was captured by the Taliban, bears up under scrutiny.

Villagers said Mortensen came to their village a year AFTER he climbed K2.

He did build a school, but 60 Minutes found that many of the other 170 schools he says his charity built were either empty, built by somebody else, or simply didn't exist.

Moreover, an analysis of Mortensen with his Taliban captors indicates that at least one of them is a Pakistani scholar, not a terrorist (though one could say those things are not by definition contradictory).

Time quotes Mortensen as saying in a statement about the allegations: "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."