This could still wind up being a completely innocent mistake -- but I do think there is more to the "hoax" stuff than just not liking the guy. A whole lot of things make no sense.
- Why did the idea that there was a basket hanging under the main "flying saucer" structure get anywhere at all? The dad had to have known there was no such thing. This bought another hour or two of coverage and anxiety, though -- OK, the balloon was down and there was no kid in it, but maybe he was dangling from this other basket and THAT fell off at some point. The video of the balloon taking off makes it very clear, there was no basket. The kid was IN the balloon somehow, or he was safe on the ground, period.
- Could the kid have ever been IN the balloon? I haven't seen a good description but a) it seems like it was a flimsy cardboard structure that b) didn't necessarily have a door/ easy access. Newscasters at the time (who did a lousy job) didn't know, but the dad would have known. I haven't seen anything definitive about this, but it seems rather unlikely that the kid could have realistically gotten in there in the first place.
- The "we did it for the show" thing, the dad's reaction, and the kid's vomiting when asked about it afterwards -- again, it could turn out to be just a coincidence but it certainly legitimately raises questions about WTF happened. (I still think there is a middle ground possible -- that the dad wasn't planning on making it about the kid, but tacked that on at some point once the balloon was in the air.)
- Reports of food and toys stocked in the kid's hidey-hole. Maybe false reports, but if they're real, again indicates that there was some level of planning.
- The dad called a TV station before calling 911.
- Whatever else is going on with the dad, he's a proven publicity hound. Pitched a reality show to TLC (that was turned down), had some other show he was trying to get produced, lots of other stuff. And there is no such thing as bad publicity.