Suspicious Script: Is Inspirational Book Three Cups of Tea Inaccurate?

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Courtesy Amazon

A 60 Minutes report shows Greg Mortenson’s memoir may be a few cups short of a full set.

Mortenson’s mountain-climbing excursion in Pakistan turned to terror when he was separated from his crew on the world’s second highest peak, K2. The climber writes that he stumbled, disoriented, into the remote mountain town of Korphe. After the villagers cared for him, he repaid their generosity by building a school for them. Even this highly abridged version of Mortenson’s story, according to 60 Minutes, is riddled with inaccuracies.

(More on TIME.com: See the 100 best books of all-TIME)

Sunday night’s show did a little digging, and upon interviewing the residents of Korphe, they found that Mortenson might not have happened upon the town after his failed climb. Instead, villagers said it was a year after the K2 attempt that they hosted him.

Mortenson did indeed build a school for Korphe, an endeavor that he spun off into the Central Asia Institute, a charity that continued the trend of spreading education across Pakistan and Afghanistan. The non-profit, headed by Mortenson, has supposedly built more than 170 schools across the region. But 60 Minutes again may have debunked this: they say some of the schools they checked into “were empty, built by somebody else, or simply didn’t exist at all.”

Fellow climber and author Jon Krakauer is one of the doubters who casts a stark shadow over Mortenson’s writing. Through conversations with Mortenson and his colleagues, Krakauer has discovered major flaws in his story.

Even Mortenson’s claim in the book that he was captured by the Taliban in Pakistan in 1996 might be debunked. After analyzing a photo of the captors, Krakauer and 60 Minutes found that at least one of them was a Pakistani scholar, not a terrorist. Whoops! The exposé aired Sunday on 60 Minutes.

In a statement, Mortenson responded to the claims against him as he continued to promote the charity of his organization: “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.”

Looks like Mortenson’s writing has the potential to be shattered into a million little pieces.

(More on TIME.com: See Three Cups of Tea as one of the best books of 2006)

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