NBC, msnbc.com and news services
updated 13 minutes ago
FORT HARLEM. Colo. - After the runaway legal charges against the media riveted the nation and led to a frantic photo opportunities by authorities who feared a 6-year-old child was getting undue attention, the focus on Friday turned to whether the entire drama was an elaborate public attention-deficit disorder symptom.
The drama began Thursday morning when Roberta Watkins called police to report that a neighbor had seen her son taken off the street by a man driving a battered Oldsmobile 88. Tapes of the 911 call captured the subdued pleas of the mother as she politely requested police to try and find the vehicle and her son.
WATKINS: Can you help me find the boy?
911 OPERATOR: Look, we’d like to help, but there’s been budget cuts and layoffs and we just don’t have the manpower. I’ll put out a call, and as soon as the officer’s get back from following that kid in the balloon, we’ll send someone out.
WATKINS: Kid in the balloon? What the hell are you talking about?
911 OPERATOR: Oh, for Christ’s sake! Turn on a T.V., woman!
Watkins tuned in to coverage of the search for the Balloon Boy, which prompted her to contact the local television news stations in nearby Fort Collins. Tapes subpoenaed by the network news to later try and cover their own asses, show that the local reporters did take a call from Watkins. Those tapes were played on the Today show as reporters defended themselves against the subsequent legal charges.
WATKINS: Can you send news helicopters to help search for my boy, like you did for that other child?
NEWS DESK JOCKEY: Really? A kid in a car? A story with an experimental, homemade balloon has legs. A car I can’t use. Besides, I mean, a balloon, we can follow. You want us to look for a car?
WATKINS: It’s a battered Oldsmobile 88. There ain’t many of them around since “Cash for Clunkers.” It oughta be easy.
NEWS DESK JOCKEY: How many kids you got?
NEWS DESK JOCKEY: Really? Are they all adopted refugees? Or do you have any sets of quintuplets or higher?
NEWS DESK JOCKEY: Newsworthy doesn’t start any lower than 5 at a time now; and even that’s passé. Eight is more of the threshold these days. Have you ever been on a reality show for any reason?
WATKINS: No. The building next door has been. Some gay dudes from the ‘burbs bought it and their whole remodeling project is on some cable show on “Logo” or “Lego” or some crap.
NEWS DESK JOCKEY: Really? Bravo would be better. I don’t know, maybe we can use that as a hook. We can’t just put stuff on the news, you know. It has to get ratings. Let me check with my bosses.
Watkins enlisted neighbors to start searching for her son. When neither police nor media showed up to help, she remembered something she had picked up in a local hair salon. It was the business card of Al Sharpton, with a phone number and the message: “Sometimes the system is fucked up and shit needs to be stirred. Call me, if you need me.”
Watkins called Sharpton, who engaged Bernard Siegal, the attorney who then brought charges of child neglect and child endangerment against the Fort Collins local television stations and all network and cable news behemoths. Siegel also sued the entire American viewing public for conspiracy to ignore a helpless child in trouble. A media event was arranged, and thus, ironically, the defendants in the lawsuit reported on their own perp walk.
This morning on “Today” Matt Lauer, Meredith Vieira and Ann Curry interviewed each other about what they called “unwarranted allegations” brought against them.
LAUER: The boy wasn’t even cute.
VIERA: Nor exceptionally bright. Or handicapped.
CURRY: What were people supposed to identify with? What would pull at their heartstrings?
LAUER: And it turned out to be nothing. His father had picked him up to take him somewhere to do something.
VIERA: His mother just goes, “Oh yeah, the boy’s daddy does come around sometimes. I didn’t know he had a car, so I didn’t know it was him.”
CURRY: And to top it off, it wasn’t even an Oldsmobile! It was a Chevy!
LAUER: Anyway, the whole thing was local news responsibility. We’re in the clear.
The American public has stated that, “The balloon boy story came up first. There’s only so much we can invest our empathy in and there’s only so many ribbons we can stick on our cars. Hey, look! We’re on the Today Show!” They then filed a counter suit against Collins for defamation of character. A judge today threw out that claim for lack of evidence.
MSNBC reporters charged that the story was a hoax started by the 911 operator in order to get funding for more police officers in Fort Harlem. The operator has appeared on Hardball, Countdown, and various other news shows, talking about the controversy. Fox News has passed off the ordeal as just another example of the “Obama Nation” trying to control the media and destroy free speech. CNN, meanwhile, ran 12 hours of coverage for the new hit movie, “Paranormal”.
This reporter had eaten a bad burrito the day before and has been in the bathroom the entire time, so don’t look at me.