The sheriff investigating the case of the alleged balloon boy hoax is scheduled to be interviewed by Bill O'Reilly Monday evening, but it's not clear if Sheriff Jim Alderden knows that O'Reilly once hosted a show that may be part of his probe.
During a Sunday press conference, the sheriff announced that he was certain the stunt was a hoax and admitted suspicions that a media company conspired with the family. "Let's call it short of speculation that a media outlet was in on the hoax, but let's not discount the possibility," said Alderden.
While Alderden wouldn't say which media company might be in the crosshairs, he characterized the type of show as infotainment. "There are so many of these shows that kind of blur the line between entertainment and news," he said.
One such show, Inside Edition, is known to have worked with the Heenes for footage showing the supposedly bungled liftoff of their space craft.
Just hours after the nation feared the worst for a little boy named Falcon, the 6-year-old showed INSIDE EDITION the crawl space in his garage where he hid out as his family's flying saucer soared above Colorado.
The family is sharing a home video of the events leading up to the balloon launch. On the video, Falcon tells his older brother Bradford, who's shooting the video, that he's going to hide in the homemade helium balloon.
Inside Edition broadcast an interview with the Heene family Friday. Strangely, video of the interview doesn't appear on their website. In the video, Falcon Heene, the 6-year-old boy at the center of the controversy is seen saying, "I'm gonna sneak inside" and demonstrates how he could hide inside the balloon's storage compartment. After the balloon lifts off, Falcon's little brother, Bradford, tells the father, "Dad, Falcon's in there."
As noted by CBS News, many networks were after interviews. While it's not known if Inside Edition paid the Heene family for the exclusive, it's no secret that they offer money for interviews. "We have no problem offering [an interviewee] money," former executive producer Av Westin was quoted a few years back on the subject of "checkbook journalism." Gawker has also paid to get exclusives on the story.
The NY Daily News reported:
Sheriff's department investigators said they want to question a Denver man named Robert Thomas who claimed Richard Heene had told him months ago he was planning a media stunt to promote a proposed reality show.
Thomas, a self-described researcher, sold his story to Gawker.com and gave the Web site e-mails between him and Heene.
Gawker.com editor-in-chief Gabriel Snyder confirmed the New York-based Web site paid Thomas, but declined to say how much. The site headlined the story: "Exclusive: I Helped Richard Heene Plan a Balloon Hoax."
Perhaps Sheriff Alderden will get some insights into the workings of Inside Edition while visiting with O'Reilly Monday. O'Reilly is well known for a ranting, "Fuck it! Do it live!" while hosting the entertainment show back in the early nineties.
"I know this has been a captivating story -- a bizarre story. It's generated interest from all over the world. But I am confident that you folks have something better to do," the sheriff told reporters Sunday. "I'm shutting this thing off as far as any other interviews with the Sheriff's department," he said. But Alderden made room for one final interview. "With the possible exception of Bill O'Reilly. I might do him if he'd ask."
The sheriff had cautioned that the Denver Broncos' Monday Night Football game might take that potential gig "off the table," but he evidently relented.
Inside Edition plans to offer an exclusive look inside the Heene houshold Monday night. A promo for their latest report can seen at their website.
"We're with them every step of the way as they face national scrutiny," announced the promo.
This video is from CNN.com, broadcast Oct. 18, 2009.
This video is from InsideEdition.com, broadcast Oct. 19, 2009.
(with additional research by Ron Brynaert)