By Laura Bly, USA TODAY
As a mountain climber whose near-death experience inspired a bestselling book and humanitarian mission in one of the most dangerous places on the planet, Nobel Peace Prize nominee Greg Mortenson has galvanized scores of adventure travelers to give back to the destinations they visit.
But a 60 Minutes investigation charges that the author of the memoir Three Cups of Tea fabricated his now-famous tale about being rescued by Pakistani villagers in 1993. It also raises questions about the financial arrangement between Mortenson and the Central Asia Institute, the charity he founded in 1996, and alleges that many schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan that Mortenson's charity claimed to establish either don't exist or were built by others.
The report, which airs Sunday night on CBS television, cites Into the Wild author Jon Krakauer as among the doubters of Mortenson's story of being lost in rural Pakistan and stumbling upon the village of Korphe, where the kindness of local residents inspired him to build a school. The 60 Minutes story draws upon observations from the porters who joined Mortenson on his mountain trip in Pakistan and dispute his being lost. They say he only visited Korphe a year later.
Mortenson defended himself Friday, issuing a statement that "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."
On its website, the Central Asia Institute posted responses to questions posed by 60 Minutes and said Mortenson's "speeches, books and public appearances are the primary means of educating the American people on behalf of the institute. CAI's activities and Greg's are closely intertwined, (and) CAI appropriately receives a greater benefit from Greg's activities than Greg does himself."
"Through his work empowering communities in some of the most remote areas in the world, and through his successful books that share the stories of his experiences, Greg has accomplished the real and extraordinary work of bringing education to girls and boys in Pakistan and Afghanistan who otherwise would have no educational opportunity to enable them to help themselves and their communities," the board wrote. "It would be truly tragic if the sensationalized allegations against him were to harm the future of this crucial work."
Sources : travel.usa.today.com