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60 Minutes Investigates U of L Award Winner

The CBS news magazine program 60 Minutes is reporting that an internationally acclaimed author set to be honored by the University of Louisville has written a book filled with inaccuracies .New York Times best-selling author Greg Mortenson is best known for co-authoring  “Three Cups of Tea" that has won him worldwide recognition for building schools for girls in parts of Pakistan and Afghanistan, including thrilling tale of surviving an abduction by the Taliban.Recently, Mortenson was named the winner of the 2011 H. Charles Grawemeyer Award in Education for his second book, “Stones into Schools: Promoting Peace with Books, not Bombs, in Afghanistan and Pakistan.”On Sunday, the television program will air a story with sources alleging that Mortenson's inspiring stories in both books are fabricated.From 60 Minutes:The heart of Mortenson’s “Three Cups of Tea” is the story of a failed attempt in 1993 to climb the world’s second-highest peak, K2.  On the way down, Mortenson says, he got lost and stumbled, alone and exhausted, into a remote mountain village in Pakistan named Korphe. According to the book’s narrative, the villagers cared for him and he promised to return to build a school there. In a remote village in  Pakistan, 60 MINUTES found Mortenson’s porters on that failed expedition. They say Mortenson  didn’t get lost and stumble into Korphe on his way down from K2. He visited the village a year later.

That’s what famous author and mountaineer Jon Krakauer, a former donor to Mortenson’s charity, says he found out, too. “It’s a beautiful story.  And it’s a lie,” says Krakauer.  “I have spoken to one of his [Mortenson’s] companions, a close friend, who hiked out from K2 with him and this companion said, ‘Greg never heard of Korphe until a year later,’” Krakauer tells Kroft.  Mortenson did eventually build a school in Korphe, Krakauer says, “But if you read the first few chapters of that book, you realize, ‘I am being taken for a ride here.’ ”

Mortenson declined to comment for the story. Professor Allan E. Dittmer, executive director of the award, says the university stands by their decision to recognize the author.From WHAS-11:“The Grawemeyer Awards Program has taken author Greg Mortenson at his word, as have millions of readers around the world.  Given the impact of his work, we hope these early reports are unfounded, but we will be closely watching this situation as it unfolds.”

The Grawemeyer award has drawn nomination from around the world and comes with a $100,000 prize. Mortenson is scheduled to speak on campus Sept. 23.