Balloon Boy Dad Debate: Is Richard Heene a Scumbag?

New Times Broward Palm Beach editor Chuck Strouse and managing editor Deirdra Funcheon almost came to blows over this week's feature story, Balloon Boy 2012: Three years after the hoax, Falcon Heene fronts a metal band. What follows is a stolen transcript of a conversation the two had over IM.

Chuck: Deirdra, I loved the Balloon Boy in Tampa story, but thought you went rather easy on the father, Richard Heene, who fooled America when he claimed his son had flown away in a balloon -- though the boy was really hiding in the attic. Sent at 4:16 PM on Wednesday

Deirdra: Ah, but you see.... Richard maintains -- has always maintained (well, except for that guilty plea) -- that he thought Falcon was really up in the balloon. Mayumi was very sincere in telling me that she honestly did not know what the word "hoax" meant. Actually, Geraldo explored this once -- he showed Mayumi's interrogation and how she was asked yes or no questions. It's conceivable, given her Japanese background, that she misunderstood when asked if it was a hoax. So there are two people in America actually willing to give the Heenes the benefit of the doubt here -- me and Geraldo! Sent at 4:21 PM on Wednesday

Chuck: As PT Barnum's competitor said, "There's a sucker born every minute." I expect that from the former Jerry Rivers, but not from a hard-nosed journalist like you. Richard Heene wasted millions of taxpayer dollars. Sent at 4:25 PM on Wednesday

Deirdra: What I expected from you -- the proud, irreverent leader of an alternative weekly -- is to entertain a counterintuitive point of view instead of blindly sucking up the party line that's been out there. To at least examine the evidence. Not to blindly eat up the party line that this guy is a jerk. And to be clear: I'm not saying he's NOT guilty. Just saying that it's conceivable he's not. I'd have to see the interrogation tapes of Mayumi, him and Falcon from right after the incident to make more of a judgment. If it seemed like he was overacting... I can tell you that if there's one thing I learned from meeting him in person, it's that that's how the guy talks. Spent nine hours with them and he had the same tone of voice the whole time. Sent at 4:32 PM on Wednesday

Chuck: The proof of the matter is that the guy is again whoring out his kids with this metal band. He's a man with a hundred ideas a minute who has no idea what it is to be a father. You might explain to him that this means being responsible and owning up to your mistakes. Never once, except in the courtroom, has this man taken responsibility for putting others in danger. And that is precisely what he did. The National Guard and cops spent hours and hours on this mess. Richard Heene HAS acknowledged seeking reality show fame. He is a jerk. Sent at 4:38 PM on Wednesday

Deirdra: Ok, so let's say he's a jerk. The kids are not. The wife is not. They are all very sweet and friendly. Honestly, I think being in a metal band is good for them, because otherwise, they are in the house pretty much all of the time, apparently with no other adult relatives in the picture. Getting out and getting a more expanded worldview would be good for them, I think. Also: let's say he's a jerk. He's an entertaining jerk. What makes him any worse than a Kardashian or a Honey Boo-Boo? If he wants to provide for his family, a reality show is a much faster track to fortune than a handyman job. Is that so wrong? It's the modern American dream! He's done his jail time, paid his debt to society. Doesn't the family deserve a second chance? Sent at 4:44 PM on Wednesday

Chuck: The man is dishonest and perhaps violent. His children and wife deserve better. This is not someone who should be allowed to home school his kids. In a fit of rage, he once trashed a Volkswagen and pleaded guilty to vandalism. And twice before the hoax, cops were called to the Heene home, once for a possible domestic violence call. He is a BAD DAD. Sent at 5:00 PM on Wednesday

Deirdra: What are you, a big ole liberal that thinks the govt can do a better job at raising the kids? This guy who wrote a Gawker story knew the family pretty well and says the kids were never scared of their dad. Let's give 'em a reality show so we can monitor them all the time! Sent at 5:05 PM on Wednesday

Chuck : The guy who wrote the Gawker piece proves Richard Heene is evil. Pure, unadulterated evil. Pimping out one's children for one's own advantage -- and teaching them that deceit is okay -- is simply despicable. Sent at 5:08 PM on Wednesday

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