Balloon boy Falcon Heene's father, Richard, planned the hoax because he wanted to return to reality TV, claims a former research assistant. Heene "was often driven by ego and fame," Robert Thomas says in an interview with Gawker, which the website acknowledges it paid him for. "He was all about controversy, hoping to whip up something significant enough to eliminate our reality TV competitors."
"Richard had an ongoing dialog with someone at ABC who helped produce Wife Swap," on which the family had appeared twice, Thomas says. Heene apparently believed that shape-shifting aliens were controlling the government, "and the only way to get the truth out there was to use the mainstream media to raise Richard to a status of celebrity, so he could communicate with the masses."