Controversial "Three Cups" author has heart surgery

HELENA, Montana Fri Jun 10, 2011 2:48am EDT

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

Greg Mortenson poses with Sitara ''Star'' schoolchildren in Wakhan, northeastern Afghanistan in this undated handout photograph released to Reuters March 11, 2009.

Credit: Reuters/Central Asia Institute/Handout

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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.

Separately, in April Montana Attorney General Steve Bullock said he had opened an inquiry into Mortenson's Central Asia Institute to ensure its charitable assets are used for the right purposes. The inquiry is still open, said Judy Beck, a spokeswoman for Bullock.

Mortenson's representative Beyersdorfer said, "We are very fortunate he was able to get comprehensive care he needed to repair his heart, so he can be in good health to get back to work and address media misinformation."

The operation on Mortenson's heart was conducted at an undisclosed facility outside of Montana. He will be in recovery for weeks and plans to return to work afterward, Beyersdorfer said.

(Writing by Alex Dobuzinskis)

(This article has been modified to correct the last paragraph to say Mortenson will be recovering for weeks, not three weeks)

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Comments (3)
The past six weeks have shown us two things: 60 Minutes will do and say anything for ratings (most recently Lance Armstrong legal team requesting an apology) and also that Jon Krakauer has his own book to pedal and he personally objects to the close relationship Greg Mortenson has with both Generals McChrystal (ret.) and the new acting general Petraes. Building schools is not the kind of war Jon Krakauer wants, and who asked his opinion anyway? Schools are being counted, the AG is investigating, and the two representatives from Montana are being booed from the Candadian border on down as a complete waste of tax payer money. If Mortenson owes some back taxes, that is no reason to burn him in the press. This is a lesson for the media, not for Greg Mortenson.

Jun 10, 2011 8:53am EDT  --  Report as abuse
loquah wrote:
What are you talking about? Krakauer gave 75k to CAI. He is an investigative journalist–he was doing his job! This is not about selling books–it is about truth and accountability.

Jun 11, 2011 9:14pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
acomment wrote:
As I see it, Mr. Mortenson has had ample time since the book’s publication to address discrepancies and possibly inaccuracies. Whether he chose so or not I cannot verify.

I do believe his heart may be in the right place.. although.. his actions versus his message to contributors is suspect.

I do not believe people really want to malign him and yet.. he had his chance. One would believe if it is true his organization was paying his way to spread the word at conferences, etc. A true humble person would donate most of the fee to the organization and keep a small amount to provide for his family.

Perhaps I expect too much from those who profess to doing good and somehow find themselves doing quite well for themselves.

I do wish Mr. Mortenson will consider another course in the future and truly be a kind, humble, unselfish and good example of what what is possible do to help others.

This is just my opinion and I do wish him well

Jun 15, 2011 5:35am EDT  --  Report as abuse
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