NEW YORK (Reuters) - The publisher of U.S. author Greg Mortenson’s memoir, “Three Cups of Tea,” said on Monday it was reviewing the bestseller following claims that parts of the inspirational book were fabricated.
Television news program “60 Minutes” said in a Sunday broadcast that parts of Mortenson’s account of a failed attempt in 1993 to climb the world’s second-highest peak, K2, and being kidnapped in Pakistan in 1996, were untrue, citing several people interviewed.
“60 Minutes” also reported that Mortenson was using his charitable institute, Central Asia Institute, to promote his books.
“Greg Mortenson’s work as a humanitarian in Afghanistan and Pakistan has provided tens of thousands of children with an education. ‘60 Minutes’ is a serious news organization and in the wake of their report, Viking plans to carefully review the materials with the author,” Viking spokeswoman Carolyn Coleburn said in a statement.
“Three Cups of Tea,” was first published in 2006 and has since been a popular paperback.
It may be the latest embarrassment for the publishing industry over partly-fabricated memoirs in recent years, notably James Frey’s “A Million Little Pieces.”
The “60 Minutes” report claimed that Mortenson did not get lost and stumble into a remote mountain village on his way down from K2, and that he did not visit the village until a year later, according to expedition porters.
Mortenson told “60 Minutes” in a statement that he first visited the village in 1993, and went back each of the following three years. He suggested the discrepancy could be because the “Balti people have a completely different notion about time.”
“The concept of past and future is rarely of concern,” he said. “Often tenses are left out of discussion, although everyone knows what is implied.”
“60 Minutes” also disputed Mortenson’s account in “Three Cups of Tea,” of being kidnapped in the Waziristan region of Pakistan in 1996. His second book, “Stones into Schools,” publishes a photograph of his alleged captors.
The program located four of the men who were there when the photo of Mortenson was taken and two of whom were actually in the picture. All denied that they had kidnapped Mortenson.
Mortenson’s stood by his story, saying he was detained in Waziristan for eight days in 1996. “It was against my will, and my passports and money were taken from me,” he said.
Mortenson’s charity, the Central Asia Institute, founded in 1996, has built schools, mostly for girls, in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
But “60 Minutes” said about roughly half of 30 schools listed on the charity’s tax forms were empty, built by someone else or not receiving any support.
Editing by Jill Serjeant