'Three Cups of Tea' Author Denies '60 Minutes' Claims

Greg Mortenson defends stories from his memoir, charitable work.

ByABC News
April 17, 2011, 6:12 PM

April 17, 2011— -- "Three Cups of Tea" author Greg Mortenson sent an email to supporters today, calling a CBS News program "60 Minutes" report that criticized his memoir and alleged financial improprieties "a distorted picture using inaccurate information."

Mortenson, a three-time Nobel Prize nominee, recounted in the book how he was inspired to help establish schools, especially for girls in Pakistan, after he got lost while hiking there and stumbled upon the village of Korphe, where he was taken in and cared for by the villagers.

The "60 Minutes" segment aired today, alleged that the story is a fabrication and that Mortenson uses his charitable organization as a "private ATM machine."

Among the show's other allegations against Mortenson -- who has sold millions of copies of his best-selling book about traveling and later building schools in Pakistan -- were that his charitable organization has taken credit for building schools that don't actually exist or were built by others.

"Three Cups of Tea," tells the tale of this experience, and how his time with the villagers inspired him to return to the region to build a school for girls.

"As those of you who know me and have supported my work over the years will recognize, the story being framed by '60 Minutes' to air in a few hours today -- as far as we can tell -- paints a distorted picture using inaccurate information, innuendo and a microscopic focus on one year's (2009) IRS 990 financial, and a few points in the book 'Three Cups of Tea' that occurred almost 18 years ago," Mortenson wrote in the email today.

"The Board of Directors and I made the very difficult decision to not engage with '60 Minutes' on camera, after they attempted an eleventh hour aggressive approach to reach me, including an ambush in front of children at a book signing at a community service leadership convention in Atlanta," he wrote. "It was clear that the program's disrespectful approach would not result in a fair, balanced or objective representation of our work, my books or our vital mission."