Feature

Defending Balloon Boy's dad

Are we being too hard on Richard Heene now that we know his runaway balloon story was a hoax?

Don't be too hard on Richard Heene, said Frank Rich in The New York Times. There's something "poignant" about the way the "Bad Dad" in the Balloon Boy hoax tried to solve his family's financial problems by grabbing one of the "the last accessible scraps of the American dream"—a starring moment in "the big tent of the reality media circus." And if you want to point fingers—Heene's lie did far less damage than the artificially inflated bank bubble that made him, and millions more, so desperate. (Watch coverage of Mayumi Heene's confession that they did it to become more marketable)

Comparing bank bubbles and Richard Heene's hoax is silly, said Isaac Chotiner in The New Republic. "I can glibly say that 'Just as numerous Americans were fooled by the few hyped instances of shark attacks into staying out of the water in the summer of 2001, so were many Americans fooled by Bill Clinton's initial comments on Monica Lewinsky.'" But the two matters are unrelated—"Rich should stop looking for patterns where none exist."

And let's not underestimate how much real damage the Balloon Boy hoax caused, said Peter Cohan in Finance Daily. Twenty percent of the American workforce got nothing done during the two hours during which the nation watched Richard Heene's balloon drift and wondered whether 6-year-old Falcon Heene was inside. Do the math—the cost to the economy is a staggering $2.8 billion in lost productivity, so Richard Heene's hoax was far from a harmless prank.

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