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October 19th, 2009 by Dr. Phil

Pie in the Sky

AP Photo/David Zalubowski

AP Photo/David Zalubowski

You might have heard my comments at the end of Thursday’s show about the father of the 6-year-old who’s been dubbed the “balloon boy.” People have been stopping me on the street and asking for my opinion about the situation, so I just had to weigh in.

First of all, I feel sorry for the kids involved. If you check out their clips on YouTube, they’re talking about boogers and dog feces, and they even made a rap video that is just wrong on so many levels. The father, in my view, is the typical stage dad. He’s so obsessed with fame and being on television, that he’ll stop at nothing to make a name for himself, even if it means generating a huge media controversy with his child in the middle. What’s up with that? Apparently, this guy has made the rounds in Hollywood pitching a reality show. Allegedly, he asked his sons to lie for him just to get free publicity for his project. These kids just need to be kids and not be used as a meal ticket.

The dad was featured on the reality TV show Wife Swap, but apparently, no one told him that his 15 minutes of fame are up. He just needs to get a real job. There is no pie in the sky.

What do you think? Do you see my point, or do you think I’m full of hot air? Let me hear from you.

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91 Responses to “Pie in the Sky”

  1. Christa Emerich says:

    You took the words right out of my mouth, Dr. Phil!

  2. Casandra says:

    I agree. I think it is sad that a parent would risk having his children taken away for something like this. I don’t know if that’s narcissism or just stupidity but I think it’s sad.

  3. Robert Longo says:

    I agree w/you totally. I ahve seen the Rap Video they made & was completely disgusted by it. I can hardly believe any sane Parent or Person for that matter would go to such extremes.

  4. Shannon says:

    I completely agree with you. I feel that one day these children will grow up either mimicking their father’s footsteps or resenting their father for using them to gain fame and fortune. If the parents are prosecuted and put in jail, what explaination is given to the children as to why their parents aren’t there for them? What will these children think of everything when they are adults?
    As a counselor, I see a very disturbed man who doesn’t understand and will stop at nothing for the attention / fame. Very Narcisistic.

  5. Theresa Bass says:

    I Think that the father needs to grow up and just be a dad, spend time with his boys. What are these boys learning from him? To lie, be full of them selves and only care about them selves and no one else . And where is the mother while the dad is asking his kids to lie for him? She should be putting a stop to that , she is the mother! He really needs a reality check not a reality show!!

  6. Michelle says:

    My thoughts are — who cares? Any publicity – good or bad – is exactly what he wants. Haven’t seen the youtube videos, and I won’t look them up. Its unfortunate that the children are involved. Don’t waste another word on him.

  7. Joyce Long says:

    What he did was wrong on a lot of levels, and using his kids in such a way is just not the way to go. However while I do not in any way condone what he did, maybe he is doing it for reasons other than just 15 minutes of fame. Maybe he is hoping to get something in the works to bring money in. He could be like all the rest of us, desperate for money to pay the bills and keep food on the table and a roof over their heads. While there has to be a better way than that, to use your own kids and expect to be on TV (which is not going to happen in a million years), if he is just doing it to pay the bills, I can sypathize with him. I hope using his kids in such a way is over and he will seriously think about what he is doing to them and seek help elsewhere (if there is any help, I know I have had no luck).

  8. I completely agree with you Dr Phil. We live in Colorado, and were heartbroken when we heard the story and they reported the child may have fallen out of the balloon. To see this father continue to lie and bring his kids into his scheme is incomprehensible. I feel for these children, especially realizing they may lose everything due to their father’s stupidity.

  9. Marsha says:

    I believe that all of the children in the Heene family are being used, i thought that when i saw Wife Swap. The husband is verbally abusive to the substitute wife, and drags the kids out of bed all hours of the night. I am not sure i remember what their school situation was, but the children definitely appeared to need remediation of some kind. i agree with you Dr. Phil, the dad needs to get a job and take care of his family.

  10. Lin says:

    This “balloon boy” situation is so incredibly sad. I agree with you, this father is really something else to use his own child for a media stunt for some stupid reality show idea. As if we don’t already have far too much “reality” television filling the air waves. The kids are caught in the middle, and from various news reports of late, the guy’s wife isn’t treated very well either. Verbally abusive to his wife would be an understatement, according to the reports of those who know them personally and had to deal with him when filming Wife Swap. What a way for those kids to grow up.

  11. Kelly says:

    You Go Dr. Phil! I totally agree that the dad’s 15 minutes of fame are up! What is this world coming to?????? Thanks to all those that participate in finding this “supposedly missing boy.” Even though, the story sounded a bit outrageous, they were just doing there job, which was to find that boy. I personally would like to apologize to the investigators, TV crews, cops, etc who fully took on this task. It was a waste of their time and I do hope the parents are punished for their wrongful actions

  12. Jo Barber says:

    The body language of the father on the video where the boy “let the cat out of the bag” was really frightening to me. He looked like if there weren’t cameras rolling he would of really let the kid have it. I also was disgusted with the interview the next day when the poor little thing was throwing up! I mean as a mother I would of gotten up and told the interviewers we’re done, I have to take care of my son!
    The whole thing is disturbing when you think of what probably goes on BEHIND closed doors.

  13. Maggie says:

    I also, believe the children are pawns of their mother and fathers selfish greed of fame and fortune. The 15 mins of fame, making so many of us a nervous wreck. By looking at his behavior he appears to have an abusive, disturbed personality. His wife is a door-mat, not knowing her upbringing she may feel she has to do as she’s told. No excuse!! I’m wondering, if they were home schooled if they ever followed up with tests from the local school? As they do here if a child is home schooled. Also, has anything came out about any production that was possibly involved?

  14. Hi Dr. Phil,

    I completely agree with you, the rap video is just wrong kids needs to be kids and the dad I think wants plenty of attention, and your right! he’s obsessed with fame and being on television, and to make a name for himself. I think everyone can make name for them selves in a right way… Like help the needy or feed the homeless or something…

    God bless you Dr. Phil and yours’

    Albert Hallado

  15. Blgspc says:

    This guy REALLY needs to re-assess his priorities in life!

    If you want to frighten an entire nation, who are watching that balloon in horror, fearing that there may be a small child inside, in my book you’ve crossed a line! First with the children and with the public. With that kind of focus on pulling off such a stunt, who’s to say that a small child might not believe that actually being inside that balloon might NOT be such a stretch if Dad’s thinking that this is in some way ‘COOL’.

    Also, this man’s anger, coupled with his impulse-control issues- like the clip I saw of him throwing a cup of liquid on a woman- are disturbing and way over the top!

    I feel for those kids.


  16. Joyce Long says:

    After going back and looking and reading some more, my comments above were a little off. I realize this father is not doing this just because he is desperate to support his family but is obsessed with being on tv, and has no problem using his children to get what he wants. This is pathetic. And the mother should have put a stop to it but was in on the whole thing. These parents need to back off and let these kids be kids. He has been on tv, got obsessed with it and is putting his kids welfare in jeopardy to further himself. How selfish these parents are.

  17. Shawn says:

    I think the Father needs to grow up. And get another hobby.

  18. Michelle Carter says:

    SO very true and the fact that that little boy was so nervous about the whole thing that he vomited when questioned by reporters makes me so sad

  19. joelownotes says:

    ~ What a dad… sad, sad, sad… Bad dad…MAD !!!, other than that, have a nice day. :-P

  20. Jill Dotter says:

    Dr. Phil, I agree whole-heartedly with your thoughts and comments on the parents of balloon boy… but even more heartedly, I agree with those who posted before me that not another moment should be spent talking about, thinking about, and especially bringing publicity to, these parents. We should all privately pray for these children… and if you can bring any resources to the table to get help for these kids, who it appears have mentally unstable parents on many levels, that would be great. But please, please, please… if it’s not too late to change course… I beg you, do NOT do a show on them!! If you sense from responses that there might be some national “wave” of parents like them, who would sacrifice everything for a few minutes of fame, and want to feature other families, fine… but please do NOT do a show on the Heene family. As you said, their 15 minutes of fame should be long over, and no further attention brought to this story will be beneficial to anyone, especially the Heene children. At this point, they’re like the train wreck… and I think we all need to just keep on driving without looking over too hard, and just pray for the victims…

    Love you, Dr. Phil!

  21. I feel horrible for these boys! It was so obvious the day following the event when they the boy was asked during the interview what did he mean by saying “We did it for a show.” He immediately became ill and his parents just sat in front of the cameras. Why not stop the interview to be with your ill child! That is just HORRIBLE!!! I wonder what happened in their years to have distorted their priorities so badly!

  22. Betty says:

    The parents probably want the TV shows and the spotlight, but have they ever considered the children have different goals. The children need time to be children without the media, TV shows, etc. It sounds like this is all about the dreams of the parents. What about the dreams of the children. They could aspire to be great lawyers, doctors, or whatever they esteem to be. Childhood cannot be recaptured when taken away.

  23. Sherri says:

    The dad of those three children has a SERIOUS mental problem. There is no other way to describe it! To have that small boy on T.V. lying for him to the point the child is throwing up because he doesn’t understand what’s going on is just SERIOUSLY WRONG! In my opinion that is some serious mental abuse going on. I would suggest if there is a loving supportive NORMAL family member out there, CPS consider placing those children with them until these parents get some serious counseling. You know that poor kid is never going to hear the end of it, if he hasn’t already from dad that he blew it for them and “got daddy” in trouble. Dad should be teaching his kids there are consequences for your actions because he’s about to find out. I feel so sorry for those kids!

  24. Mary says:

    I hear everyone saying they feel horrible for these boys and believe you me I really do, their lives are going to be messed up when they get older, if they are not already messed up. Would anyone agree with me that maybe the wife is being FORCED to do this also. I don’t know why, call it a hunch, I’ve seen the sign’s of mental abuse too much….Notice the HUSBAND/FATHER is doing all the talking. Remember the first interview with the family after the boy was found in the attic, the boy was on the FATHER’S lap and the mother (if you look back) can’t sit still, she appears nervous (not about the prank, about the HUSBAND). When the boy vomits the mom doesn’t even get up, not because she does not want to, but because she got her marching orders from her husband before the interview not to say or do anything. Some of you are probably saying I’m off my rocker, no I acted like this for 15 years during my first marriage. Let’s wait and see how things unfold, I hope I am right, that will mean the wife might not have to go to jail and the children can live with her.

  25. Jean Mitchell says:

    Some people should NEVER be parents. Too bad there isn’t a test to take to see if you will be good ones. I definately believe in parenting classes before having a child and especially after. You could be required to go to these classes each stage of a child’s life. Maybe I’m only dreaming. Years ago no one would ever think that parenting classes were valuable, but seeing how parents don’t parent today, it is actually scary. Too bad about those 3 boys and what they will have to live with for the rest of their lives. The parents certainly wern’t thinking of them when they made up that hoax.

  26. Tami says:

    I agree with Jill D. above that the parents should not be given another moment of publicity. Hopefully we will be hearing the results of the criminal investigation, but that should be about it. I heard on the news yesterday that the mother has confessed and she is just as much to blame as her lame husband for going along with the whole thing. The kids are the pawns here and that is very sad and unfortunately, they don’t have good role models to base their future on. But Mr. Heene is a whack job and shouldn’t be given another moment of notoriety. Whatever happened to the good old American work ethic, where people actually work for a living???

  27. Jayne says:

    The father needs to be charged and the mother needs counseling. She appears to be a drone that does and says whatever he wants her to.
    And those poor kids need all the counseling they can get because with this guy as a father they have got to be messed up.

  28. Erin says:

    This is probably not going to be a very popular post. But oh well.

    The parents are not the only ones to blame for this. If the media was not so obsessed with getting a story then the parents would have no reason to even to do it.

    Even now, we are still talking about it and the family is still getting media attention. So their plan of 15 minutes of fame worked and is still working.

    Ten years ago who would have even heard of this story but because of 24 hour news the media needs a story like this.

    We are all blaming the parents for this but remember if it was not for the media not only having a show called “wife swap” but for the consistent news we had over this story then the idea that the father had would not not even been a thought.

    I am not saying that it was wrong, but it is just like a child doing something bad for attention. Do we award the bad behavior by giving it more attention? No, but we do it in these types of situations. Example, the Runaway Bride. The parents are not the only ones to blame in this situation if we as a society, and the media, did not crave these kinds of stories then their would be no reason to cook up a story like this because it would have not worked.

    I think we need to examin why we find these stories so addicting that the news media feels to cover these stories. Why could have they just said the boy is fine he was not in the sky and life is good? Then they could not do any follow up stories with the family and given them more media attention.

    So the plan worked the family got their fame. Who knows maybe they will have thier own reality show. We need to take a look at ourselves to see why we are so fasinated when these kind of stories.

  29. Jane says:

    This man is a whack job!! He put his kids through these lies, making his youngest vomit on national tv??? The kids should be taken away before he does more serious harm to them. Richard is looking for a fame and money job instead of a real one, which is fine if it doesn’t involve other people. He is dragging his entire family down with him and his wife is doing nothing to see that her kids are out of harms way. This man is not a father, instead is an mental abuser of his children. What father makes their kids sleep in their clothes so they can be ready in case a storm comes up? He should so be put away a long time and be away from those kids.

  30. Hi Dr. Phil… I agree for the most part.



    I missed their second time on Wife Swap yet saw the first and the father was VERY abusive on TV. Above is Youtube Wife Swap link of their return to Wife Swap which I haven’t seen yet may watch to see if he smoothed out some rough edges from first. I haven’t kept up with “Balloon boy” saga and first learned about on twitter. I’m aware of all you presented to us though, now, as per news clips.

    As far as children as meal tickets or adults piggybacking off the backs of babes as I call it. I think you should delve into this nationwide epidemic. There was a news magazine segment of many teen moms in USA honestly doing this to get on welfare as a way to have own place. Some too on side getting funds from fathers not living in home too or from many fathers if don’t know which dad father.

    How about the time and dollars it takes to translate for persons in USA dishonestly as a career? Oh, and persons in jobs to translate for make more so a money making operation that feeds off self (payoff). A couple of years ago the Wall Street Journal said over 12,000,000 in USA dishonestly (just Google). Several major networks reported OVER 100 entering USA dishonestly A DAY which equals the population of Muskogee, OK a year.

    That’s why Osama bin Laden of of last videos said next attack of USA would be through weak borders which includes those from many countries that sneak in or visit & never leave. Some churches & tour bus companies network throughout USA for cheap labor. That’s just a guestimate of 12,000,000 as experts think WAY more of persons who if not here at least 12 Million of the 35 Million uninsured would have better access to medical care.

    Holding up babes, like a bank robber for emotional blackmail thereof, to enter and remain in USA dishonestly from MANY COUNTRIES. Teaching children from day one “dishonesty is the best policy” exploiting 14th Amendment. Breaking in line in front of those following the rules to enter USA legally. Organized crime of contract laborers hiring to underbid those in USA honestly or side-step paying fair wages and insurance using City hospital ER’s as their healthcare plan. Pie in the face of law abiding citizens.

    Due to those in USA dishonestly networking through charities… charity cupboards are bare for new influx of persons in USA honestly, via economic crisis in USA, needing help. If you don’t believe me… come to Dallas and go interview persons in line on Merrell Road lined up nearby UPS… and that’s just one place. Reports of those in USA honestly discriminated against by sympathizers at helms of charity who give those in USA dishonestly charity first.

    As well, 25 years ago a law passed for universal healthcare for so reports that… someone in USA dishonestly will be treated better at ER than someone uninsured in USA honestly since Federal Program to pay for. Also, Social Workers provided to help figure out red tape on the spot. The new Slave Labor of franchise and contract labor businesses organized crime.

    Those who want citizenship via amnesty do for fair wages yet if fair wages and benefits paid in first place they wouldn’t even be here and their being here is why aren’t. Which, by the way, I had a legal citizen boss at a hospital who worked his way up from janitor. Now, places contract labor cleaning/landscape/maintenance to not have to pay benefits and those who underbid usually are able to since employ those in USA dishonestly. GREAT, facetiously said… with access to Malls and Government businesses and our infrastructure (eyewitness account). Just Google to see reports on from respectable news media entities.

    Why would someone in USA dishonestly feel should pop out babies like popcorn they cannot afford, via federal programs, while up the street eye exams discontinued for veterans. To piggyback off of as a meal ticket and to sponsored when child 18 for citizenship. It is economic genocide plain and simple masquerading under discrimination laws to form loop holes to slip through. Costing Americans even more than Balloon Boy’s dad every day. Including, but not limited to, water shortages in Texas now.

    Oh well, just Google and read the scientific data… not the emotional deflection of those piggybacking off the backs of babes. It isn’t cute… it is sad. If laws, i.e., immigration, don’t matter just let everyone out of prison because lots have children sad their relatives are in prison who have stolen a lot less lost in the translation. Laws are there to discourage crime and when not enforced encourage. Lawlessness begets lawlessness so there you have it. Visit some of the tent cities popping up across America…

    Yes, the law should be enforced to the fullest of Balloon Boy’s dad and all those piggybacking off the backs of babes not only in USA and throughout the world. I feel like the boy who had the nerve to say “The Emperor Has No Clothes” since most have been politically corrected into incorrectness.

    How do I know? Because I use to be “Miss Goody Two Skates Politically Correct” until I saw articles in Wall Street Journal and saw the network news reports of OVER 100 A DAY entering USA dishonestly piggybacking off backs of babes… including baby Jesus’ via charity of churches. Which by the way… John 8:7 said “Go & sin no more… not continue as before…” So self-righteous & religious malpractice to aid and abet persons in USA dishonestly who have no plans to stop by entities following doctrine of “Book of Truth” held up in courts of law “to tell the truth, whole truth and nothing but the truth.” If I’m mistaken, show me the data please.

    You say, if you are going to help people they are going to have to be honest with you. Does that include coming to the USA honestly? THE ONLY WAY the world is going to make it is if people get honest that the environment cannot sustain those piggybacking off the backs of babes. Not Balloon boy’s dad and not the millions of others who do, via emotional blackmail thereof to remain in USA, or those who do for aide in poor countries they fear they won’t receive otherwise etc. And it is VERY SAD that those being hurt the most are the children by selfish adults who covet fame or what my fellow Americans have or whatever they covet. Before I can see the pie in the sky I have to get the pie off my face since Dallas is a hub city for those in USA dishonestly of many countries piggybacking off the backs of babes via Parkland and leads the nation in multiple teen births… or did… piggybacking off the backs of babes… including Jesus’ on Merrell Road nearby Monroe intersection Dallas 75229 I was told by someone who volunteers there and have seen since live nearby. If I’m mistaken someone show me the scientific, legal and Biblical data of otherwise because all I’ve seen is scientific, legal and Biblical data that supports everything I just said. Balloon dad isn’t the only parent lying to piggyback off the backs of babes…

  31. Judi says:

    I think you are right on with your opinion about The Balloon Boy’s father. I hope his wife finds a way to get her own life somehow – even if it means leaving him if he doesn’t catch on to what he’s doing wrong. It’s just sick and sad.

  32. Robin Davis says:

    This dude reminds me of Joe Jackson. He was said to have pushed his kids like that & they never had a real childhood. I hope this guy is stopped before its too late.

  33. Christina says:

    Dr. Phil, I agree with you 100%.
    However, I feel that this won’t be the last time we hear about this family. The father doesn’t seem to care what kind of fame he gets, as long as he gets it.
    I think that child services should be looking into this case now, and down the road, for the sake of the children. What parent would want to put their child in harm’s way for publicity? Something’s not right upstairs in the father’s head, and he sure isn’t the sharpest knife in the drawer now is he…
    I feel for the kids.
    Maybe there are just too many reality shows on t.v that this family watches, and have big dreams of their own…

  34. Robin Davis says:

    Hey Dr.Phil,

    I coouldn’t find the right place to put this so I am writing it here. Have you seen the babies dancing to Beyonce’ on youtube? It is tooo cute!!!! Check it out you will laugh. This one baby is trying to do the same moves she is on the video!! He can’t be more than 1 or 2. TOOOO FUNNY!!

    Take Care,
    Robin Davis

  35. vince says:

    dont know what ot say over this mess, only one thing comes to mind{WORD}

  36. JJ says:

    I feel for the kids, especially the one labeled “balloon boy”. It should be balloon parents. This was their whole hoax, not the childs.
    I feel those adults are not worthy to be parents. The kids need a stable, loving, structured home and they’re not getting it from Mr. & Mrs. Heene.
    Either the parents should be required to take parenting classes and report in or the kids should be removed and put in a better home. No more abuse to those kids!

  37. Lisa says:

    Hello Dr. Phil,

    Parents (and I use the term loosely in this case) like these drive me nuts. Raising children is such an important job and I wouldn’t even hire this guy to mow my lawn. Cases like these always remind me of the fact that people need a license for something as basic as fishing etc. but literally anyone with a working reproductive system can raise a child. Sure there is child protective services but they step-in after the fact and there is nothing required of parents to learn before their children are born. I’m not sure exactly what the answer is but it’s just a thought.

  38. Linda says:

    I agree 100%.

  39. Patrick says:

    If anyone needs psychological help, it’s this guy ! What a poor excuse for a father.

  40. Janet Davies says:

    Obviously, there is something wrong with Richard Heene and he really needs to get help for his issues. I read all these people (worms) coming out of the woodwork and I would like to know why they didn’t say something before to protect the kids? It was clear from the “Wife Swap” show that Richard is a violent abuser and they should have on behalf of the children reported it. Let me tell you, if that jerk threw milk on me, he would have not needed a balloon or rocket to go airborn! Mayumi needs to leave right now with the kids and go to a safe place. The impression I get is that she is very passive and goes along with Richard’s “mad scientist” ideas to avoid his rage. She needs to get out or the state will take the kids away to foster care for failure to protect! Dr Phil, maybe you can talk some sense into her!

  41. Jan says:

    It is just terrible that they did that to their kids. What if someone died attempting to rescue the boy? I say you are right; additionally, Child Protective Services needs to assess the parenting skills of these two bozos. The dad’s temper problems could mean a possible brain disorder.

  42. Kristin says:

    Dr. Phil,
    I live in Aurora Colorado, probably 2 hrs away from Ft. Collins, so we get each and every update as it happens. We watched this break live at work, and I will say we lost so much productivity, looking at a patients TV… Also, I believe what these parents have done (it was admitted by the mother, that it indeed was a hoax) counts as child abuse, and it would be dangerous to leave the children in this home. Along with that, Dad has a temper, and 911 was called on a Domestic Violence call… So I see many red flags. I pray the book is thrown at Mr. Heene aka LOON DAD. I also pray federal charges are pressed… from closing DIA for a awhile, diverting planes, and inconviencing passangers. There is talk that some may sue.

  43. Dr. Phil you are right on. This story makes me sad. I just think about these kids and what it is like to be put in the middle of all this. This is not their choice.
    By having the media this family has..it has just fueled the fire of his need for 15 minutes of fame. Hopefully the federal charges and thought of having his kids taken away will put that fire out.

  44. Bobbie says:

    I think that the father and mother should be prosicuted because they had the FFA and Local County and State officals using up tax payer money to help find this child that was hiding in the attack. Talk about a waste of time. I would understand if the father and mother didnt know he was there but they did.

  45. Mary says:

    Enough already !! We must have better things to do than to run this family down.And that poor kid must feel the blame. We have all done something stupid in our life time. If it was the so called guy next door, Nothing would have been said. He that is without wrong cast the first stone. Get on with life and let this family be.

  46. Joan says:

    Amen, Dr. Phil!!

  47. Linda Perlis says:

    There is nothing intrinsically wrong with being a publicity stunt seeker. Think of Houdini or the folks who went over Niagara Falls in a barrel or across a high wire. But do it yourself and not on the backs of vulnerable children. They will likely feel shame and resentment at least and maybe rage and humiliation at worst. The problem is that the kid may get caught up in the conspiratorial moment, like in parental sexual abuse, because they feel “special”, but the emotional price is paid later on.

  48. Frank Graziano says:

    Dr. Phil I feel that you’re on key with this “balloon boy.” thing My Honest opinion is that the Kids should be taken away & given to Relatives if they have any & they suitable to bring them up right & Both parents should be Jailed & fined Heavily for what they done

  49. Ellen says:

    He got what he wanted….media attention! That’s all that is on the news and talk shows, so in other words….everyone gave him what he wanted…attention!

  50. Janet Davies says:

    I don’t think they really wanted to be famous. They wanted to be rich.

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