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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. Maureen Calhoun says:

    I knew it was a Hoax the minute I saw who was involved. The Henne’s are both wacky and obviously not real bright…anyone with half a brain knows a six year old will not be able to keep his story straight. I feel very bad for those boys :( they are so affected by having fame seeking idiots for parents. They were totally out of control on wife swap. Their language is vile, and they’ve been taught it’s OK to lie and scam people! Hopefully they will get help, and the “parents” will have to pay for their horrible devious actions. I have always thought parenting classes should be manditory.

  2. Shirley says:

    Seems to me Balloon Dad is getting exactly what he wanted — he’s continually on every channel, talk show, the internet…..and there’s no end in sight.

    What a shame that bad conduct gets such attention.

  3. Lesley from Australia says:

    OMG Dr Phil, how ‘nicely’ you put that. I think the guy is a jerk and deserves to spend a bit of time in jail. I also feel really sorry for the kids. Perhaps it’s about time the media stopped talking about him, so that he is no longer in the news. That would be a good way to shut him down (for a while anyway!). PS. Love your work!!! Lesley

  4. MICHELLE says:


  5. Linda Rose says:

    I agree with you Dr.Phil on this one. The parents and especially the Dad are doing a terrible wrong to the children. They also risked resources ,that may have been needed for legitimate emergencies, so they could get attention.The parents should have to pay back the money used for this wild goose chase but of course that won’t happen as they don’t have any money.

    At the very least they should be forced to do community service to repay the debt.Throwing them in jail is no solution as it will cost tax payers and teach the parents nothing. The father also should be forced to look for work but then who would hire someone like that? Maybe someone will take pity and give him a chance to work and prove himself that is if he really wants to.

    I think also all the shows such as Wife Swap, Jon and Kate Plus Eight and any show that uses children to make money is wrong.This also includes Nadya Shulman’s plan to have a show with her children. Producers are in it for money. Parents are in it for money and we the public continue to promote it by watching the shows like addicts. The children are exploited and given a false reality in their formative years. Children should be allowed to be children not used as a cash cow.

    What ever happened to the laws governing using children on TV anyway? Or don’t those laws apply to reality TV? When will the news media stop talking about “balloon boy”? It is only giving this couple the attention they were seeking.

  6. Berdenia Broes says:

    I was over at my son’s home when this story came on the news. My daughter in law was in tears crying uncontrollably over this child in the balloon. Then to find out he was not in the balloon, and immediately I knew that the parents were behind this SAD state of wanting ATTENTION, especially AFTER I heard they had been on Wife Swap. I so AGREE with Dr. Phil. First off just watching the one utube on them, the father is first totally over the top DRAMA DRAMA DRAMA!!!! He is NUTS!!!! Self aborbed, & has controlled his wife so much so that she is a female clone of him. NOW, that we know about this truly out to lunch Moron, we can stay away from anything else they decide to throw out there. I hope that the federal charges stick like glue. Hopefully, there is a family member that will take these boys in, when the parents end up behind bars. My heart goes out to these kids.

  7. FosterBoys says:

    Dr. Phil,

    Which part was funny?

    I agree with your original assessment that there is no pie in the sky and don’t think that you are full of hot air.

    I must have missed something though. I can’t find any humor in their story. To me, it’s just sad. Which part made you laugh?

  8. Michelle says:

    I agree. I have never understood why parents feel the need to use their children. The father obviously sees the children as a ticket for fame. I am glad that the mother finally spoke up and admitted it was a prank. At least one parent has a conscious.

  9. ScubaSteve01 says:

    It was fairly obvious from the beginning that something really strange was going on here and this family proved that they were as strange as the national headlines that they started and endangered the lives of the rescue and law enforcement people trying to help them. They should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.
    Guilty as charged and seeming to be mentally insane without the proper diagnosis from a real Doctor.

  10. Jane Moulds says:

    Right on Dr. Phil. I agree with you 100%. These parents should not be able to walk away from this. I sure hope they are made to make restitution and I certainly hope someone will step in and do what is best for these poor children. If they continue to be raised like this, what will happen in a few years?

  11. Kathi Hale says:

    I agree with you but I have stronger thoughts than you seem to have. I think CPS should look at “what is in the best interests of the child(ren)”. I think the father should have a psych eval and needs to follow all directions. And then there is the mother who appears willing to go “to any length” the father wants her to. Family dynamics are sick.

  12. musicchick2 says:

    This whole situation is just so sad. My heart just breaks for those kids. I think the parents need to be punished, & more than just a slap on the hand. Don’t they psychologically evaluate these people before signing them up for reality shows (I.e. Wife Swap)? Based on the dysfunctional oddballs who end up on these shows, they must select the looniest for “good television”.
    I’m praying that there are some mentally & morally healthy members in the Heeney’s extended family who will take those boys in, shower them with love AND healthy loving discipline, & get them into counseling to learn that what Mom & Dad did/asked them to do was wrong & why. I’d hate for them to be split apart or shuffled around through foster homes. They need stability.

  13. What is so serious about this hoax is that real lives were in danger. Suppose the balloon hit a plane and the plane crashed into a house. Lives could have been lost. Lastly it is sad that the boys were coached to lie to the police. This father has a history of putting his children in harms way chasing tornadoes. I believe CPS should intervene and require parenting classes and counseling for the parents. Counseling and assertiveness training for the boys.

  14. Tsukihime says:

    I know this is going to sound mean but… I think the state has done the right thing by having the children taken away from Mom and Dad. Obviously this is not a positive atmosphere to raise children in. I also agree that the adults need to be punished, just telling them to pay for the emergency services is not enough. They must be made to see that there are stiff consequences for their actions. Children are gifts to be cherished, not used for selfish reasons like fame and fortune.

  15. i believe that any parent that uses a child for selfish gain is a person in need of medical help. the children in this situation are victims of abuse more sinister because it is not easily detectable by most of us. how many years will it take to heal them? will this be something that will be carried onto their children? this is a situation that should be addressed in the best way for the children’s benefit and well-being.

  16. Dear Dr. Phil,

    You are NOT full of hot air–You are right on target on this one! This is a sad
    story of “Reality TV” gone wrong, for the children are the real loosers in this
    deal! My heart goes out to the whole family, for if the parents do not get the
    help they critically need to address their issues of “Fame-At-All-Costs”, it then
    remains a “loose-loose” situation for everybody–the parents & especially the
    children, for they have their whole lives still before them. My heart-felt prayer
    goes out to this family in need…….

  17. Erin says:

    Hi Dr Phil:

    What is really distrubing is the costume that is being produced on this story. Go to http://www.cbc.ca/canada/saskatchewan/story/2009/10/22/sk-balloon-boy-costumes-halloween-091022.html?ref=rss

    you can see a picture of this costume,

    I think that is distrubing that someone who would make a profit out of those ordeal and in how demand the product is.

    There is now a costume out there to make fun of this six year old. If the boy was not in need of therapy he is going to be as soon as it comes “Trick or Treat” time.

    You should go to the website or google “Baloween Boy Costume” to see how sickening this really is and how much damage this is going to do to the little boy (having everyone make fun of him by wearing this costume).

  18. charmed says:

    Honestyly i don’t really have any comment about the ballon boy because i am not really into all the “omg my baby is in the ballon” thing. When I saw it on the news that day i just couldn’t stop laughing because my first thought was what idiot would lweave there kid in aballon with helium in it? COME ON now no parent is dumb enough to let their kid stay outside with an iffy Ballon seriously!

  19. Janet Koglin says:

    I think these kids need to be given some help. Child Protective Services is necessary here. Emotional abuse is enough to wreck a child for life. I have PTSD because of issues that came up when I was child. I didn’t experience anything like this: my mom had agoraphobia and I was very isolated. Exactly the opposite of these exploited children. I think back and remember when I was in high school. I am 61 years old now, high school for me was in the 60’s, but I often wonder why someone didn’t do or say something to help me. It had to be obvious I was hurting. I was always terrified in any social setting and school was a nightmare for me. Now here we have children who are obviously hurting and being exploited I am reading that there’s nothing that can be done because it’s not bad enough. IT’S BAD ENOUGH! I know these kids are getting hurt. For that little one to be throwing up when questioned he is hurting to the core. Someone needs to step up and make this stop now. Please. Don’t let them suffer for the rest of their lives like I am. I struggle to respond “normally” to challenges in my life because of what I lived through. I know these kids will struggle later on. Dr. Phil, can you contact authorities and make them step up to the plate on this one?

  20. sarajanecarroll says:

    Little kids will say the truth, Falcon let the cat out of the bag on TV. Good for him being honest with the upbringing he has had.

  21. ckelly says:

    Dr Phil,

    Well Put! However, I also see this story as indicative of the realities of “Reality” Television. What is wrong with us as a culture, that we are willing to use precious children in the service of adult fame and fortune? Why do we watch it? Why do we pay for it when we purchase cable TV? Why do networks thinks its OK to use children this way? Why are so many young celebrities drug addicts and mentally ill? Why are there so many sex offenders? Why are so many precious children murdered?

    To paraphrase Carl Jung-our individual unconscious “Shadow” is the door way to the collective unconscious or archetypal Shadow, the “dark side” of the God figure. That is evil, symbolized in Judeo-Christianity as The Devil and Hell. We live as individuals shaping our culture, epoch, for good and bad. What are we as individuals and a collective culture afraid to accept and take responsibility for in ourselves? Greed, envy, jealousy.

    Immaturity, living as material beings forever and refusing to grow-up ; fear of tomorrow.

  22. Leah says:

    Sad case. Just goes to show that today’s economy issues are driving some people DESPERATE and therefore into making poor choices. I definitely do NOT agree with this man’s choice. Desperate people do NOT act rationally. I feel very sorry for the children.

  23. Carolyn says:

    I am furious that parents woild teach their children to lie to authorities and have so little respect. I am furious that our hearts of compasion were used by these parents and that others lives could have been at risk…for NOTHING except ..they thought it was |fun”? How demented is that?! I consider it very serious and very sad.Heaven knows our children pick up enough unsavory traits without us teaching them deliberately. It is our job as parents to nurture and love and try to prepare our kids to be honest,productive and caring human beings.
    Truthfully, I have always been appalled bt the “soaps” which I never watched other than catching them at a friends or relatives home. Now these reality shows apparently are the substitute. Once again they seem to consume many hours of my peoples lives.
    Why,… why do people have so much time to invest in the lives of others whom they don’t even know? ….an escape from the reality of heir own?

    And as far as reality goes…how real can it be to live ones life in front of a camera? Fake reality…fake life and truthfully, I guess the superficiality is what appeals to people . They don’t have to be onvolved!
    My life is far from exciting but its reality is more than I can handle at times!I only wish there were people who would truly invest their time and emotions in my life and the lives of others who need their friendship.and thereby making a real contribution to our world/

    were addicted.

  24. Linda RH says:

    BINGO Dr Phil, you said exactly what I think. If this guy spent as much time filling out job applications and getting ready for interviews as he does scamming for a TV show, his whole family would be better off.
    These two have some darling kids, and they deserve to BE KIDS.

  25. Kathy says:

    My heart goes out to the children. It is not the life they deserve. they have the right to have their childhood. Also nobody as mentioned not only the cost involved in following that balloon but also those services could have been needed urgently somewhere else.

  26. Benj says:

    I think there is a lot of gossiping going on about this started by CNN. I wonder if the kid didn’t of his own accord do this ‘for the show’. Frankly, neither do I believe the dad is all that sharp, but/and I saw the interview where he was recounting when they found his son was not in the ballon and the emotion that he showed about the fear that he might have fallen out looked waaay to real to be either from acting skill or from being witty enough to have planned that display of emotion for the purposes of convincing people of a scam.

    Another things is I pulled a similar stunt as that little boy when I was five years old involving being trapped in a stack tires fantasizing I was stuck and also fell asleep and used all the drama involved with those looking for me by saying I couldn’t get out, when i could of.

    I just hope all the people so assured by the rhetoric started by CNN, who was ticked off because they canceled other shows to cover it, are correct if this dad ends up being prosecuted. Be a shame to be part of a linch mob that hung an innocent man!

  27. Kathy says:


  28. F.D says:

    Dr. Phil, what about the mothers role in all of this. Everyone, rightly so, is bagging the father, but a mother who would allow this needs HELP. Which then makes you wonder what kind of father and husband this guy is. Having said that, while the father is fame hungry, i wouldn’t remove the children from their parents, as lets admit it, being with their parents is better than foster care.

    Maybe a university should give this guy entry so he can become a legitimate scientist. Maybe he can use all that energy constructively researching his ideas properly.

    Oh yeah has anyone tested this guy for adult ADHD.

    I don’t think his a bad parent, he just needs better tools and someone to keep a close eye on him.

  29. Elia says:

    I think the guy wants fame so bad, that he will pull any strings to get it. I also don’t believe he realized how serious his actions were. However, i don’t believe his kids should be taken away, or he should go to jail. He should just pay a hefty fine and maybe do some sort of community service.

    I also think he needs help to cope with his anger. I saw him on wife swap and boy was he a nervous wreck. I felt bad for the lady on the other end, and his wife for that matter. Maybe she has no choice but to go along with his antics.

  30. Susan Peifer says:

    Dr. Phil, you are right on. This guy is a terrible father and the mom’s no better. Those poor kids, they think it’s ok to do what they did.

  31. Stephanie says:

    This guy got exactly what he wanted! ATTENTION! I compare him to the Octo mom. He was not thinking of the children all he could think of was 5 more minutes of fame! I hope he is punished for wasting their city tax dollars,and having all the authorities wasting their time!

  32. Linda says:

    I agree 100% wirh you. When I wastched it on the news I immediatly though it was a hoax, everyone I spoke with said no, but I dissagreed with them. Those poor children!

  33. niamh says:

    i think you are giving this guy the air time that he craves and therefore feeding his bizarre need to be in the spotlight. i am shocked you posted his picture with his poor children on your blog dr phil.

  34. Shellie Uphouse says:

    I dont even think i want to hear another word about this! Giving them the time of day is exactly why they did it in the first place.. terrible


  35. Donna says:

    These parents have taught their children to lie, deceive and manipulate people. They have also put their children in dangers way by storm chasing as a “family outing”.

    I worry that these children don’t have the proper roll models to learn the social skills and life skills to be able to grow up to be healthy, responsible, caring adults. These parents are setting their chldren up to be outcasts and delinquents by their lack of responsible parenting.

    Children have so much to deal with during these stressful times. Peer pressure, the public eye, challenging economic times and they need to have a home environment where they can KNOW they will be safe, loved, valued, and have the change to have a stable childhood.

    These children also need parental role models that will hold them responsible to tell the truth, to live in a home free of deception, a home free of violent outbursts, and out of the media frenzy.

    I am not sure what chance these children have to grow up to be caring, responsible adults and develop healthy relationships if they are constantly exposed to such a controlling father and what seems to be a mother that doesn’t have the skills or strength to stand up to a husband that is narcissistic and unpredictable in his own behaviors, abusive language and thought process.

  36. LaVerne says:

    DR. Phil is right on with his opinion! None of the comments I read mentioned the fact that the little boy staying in the ATTIC for 5 hours………………… is abusive,,,, then he was on NATIONAL T.V. and actually vommited,, because he was in an emmotional upheavel… These PARENTS ARE MENTALLY ILL>> The children SHOULD be PLACED in A CAREING HOME where Someone LOVES them

  37. Sara says:

    When “balloon boy” was a trendy topic on twitter Everyone agreed that the father should be charged. One person gave this reason “He should be charged and sentenced to jail because the goverment used more resources on saving that boy then they did in the Afganistan War!” I find this comment both funny and true. Of course the goverment didn’t use that many resources to chase the balloon but it makes you think just how much of the tax payers money was wasted?

  38. Jim in Texas says:

    Dr. Phil, IMHO, I think the children should be taken from the parents and the parents jailed and the children given long term counseling. These parents are to dangerous to have these children.

  39. vince says:

    Pilots of wayward jet lose licenses, dang i read that they were on there lap tops lol i bet they were playing runescape and were at clan wars and couldnt log out till after the war lol, or maybe they were looking for that flying-saucer looking baloon that got away hahahah, all i know is im one happy puppy to know ill never fly nowhere at no time for any reason at all and pray God keeps planes away from the air space over my house, hell i dont want no flying-saucers or big air-liners crashing in our yard lol.

  40. Jill Johnson says:

    Did I hear pie??? LOL!

  41. lnvmmrti says:



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