Controversial "Three Cups" author has heart surgery

Fri Jun 10, 2011 2:48am EDT
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By Emilie Ritter

HELENA, Montana (Reuters) - "Three Cups of Tea" author Greg Mortenson, who is under fire over allegations he fabricated much of his story, is recovering from open heart surgery, a representative said on Thursday.

Mortenson, 53, underwent the surgery last week to repair a very large hole in his heart, or an atrial septal defect, said Anne Beyersdorfer, the acting executive director of Mortenson's Montana-based charity, the Central Asia Institute.

The operation also repaired an aneurysm, which is a bulge in a blood vessel. The author has suffered from hypoxia -- a condition marked by a lack of oxygen -- for the past year, Beyersdorfer said.

Mortenson's book chronicles his unsuccessful attempt to climb the mountain K2 in South Asia and his encounter with impoverished Pakistani villagers who he said inspired him to build schools and other projects in the region.

In April, the CBS news program "60 Minutes" challenged the credibility of biographical details in "Three Cups of Tea" and said Mortenson's institute was largely used to promote the 2006 book. The institute was founded to build schools for girls in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Among other things, the "60 Minutes" piece disputed Mortenson's account of being kidnapped in Pakistan's Waziristan region in 1996.

Last month, Mortenson was sued for fraud in a class-action case accusing him of fabricating much of his story in "Three Cups of Tea," although the lawsuit did not give examples of purported fabrications.

The two named plaintiffs are Jean Price of Great Falls, Montana, and Michele Reinhart of Missoula.   Continued...

<p>Greg Mortenson poses with Sitara "Star" schoolchildren in Wakhan, northeastern Afghanistan in this undated handout photograph released to Reuters March 11, 2009. REUTERS/Central Asia Institute/Handout</p>