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Steven Slater's Story Continuing to Unravel?

JetBlue flight attendant Steven Slater became something of a modern folk hero this week when he cussed out an unruly passenger, grabbed some beer, cursed and shouted on the plane's loudspeakers, then exited the aircraft by deploying its escape slide -- and using it.

But while his "take this job and shove it!" gesture gave him working class hero status among many, he now says he wants his job back - and his story is apparently springing leaks.

Slater does seem to be enjoying the attention, says CBS News Correspondent Ben Tracy. Slater told reporters Thursday, "It's been amazing, the support and the love and everything that's has been brought to me and given to me by my community and my friends, and my industry at large."

Pictures: Steven Slater

His lawyer, Howard Turman, says Slater's meltdown Monday began when he got his head nicked as two passengers tried to shove their bags into the overhead before takeoff. "With great difficulty," Turman says, "they were shoving the bags around, attempting to get it in. Stephen came over to assist, and either the bag or the overhang hit him in the head."

But, The Wall Street Journal reports, Port Authority police are beginning to doubt how true that is. The Journal quotes them as saying none of the passengers told investigators they witnessed Slater being injured. "I think this is moving toward a working theory of, 'It never happened,' the Journal quotes one Port Authority officer as saying. "There are some people who have said he came on board the aircraft with injuries," the officer continued.

And police who took Slater into custody told the Journal that, at the time of his arrest, "His eyes were bloodshot, he smelled of alcohol and he was unsteady on his feet."

Howard Deneroff, an executive producer for CBS/Westwood One Radio, told "Early Show" co-anchor Erica Hill Friday Slater's demeanor was different from that of the other flight attendants from the start of the flight - he seemed stern - then Slater was gruff during an encounter with a passenger.

Deneroff described a run-in he had with Slater over the position of his seat as the plane landed. Deneroff says Slater wound up slapping the back of the seat, then walking off "in a huff." (You can see the entire interview at the bottom of this story)

Other passengers are coming forward, saying Slater's story doesn't hold up.

Lauren Wood told CBS News Slater he was more zero than hero. "He was very rude to everyone throughout the entire flight," Wood says. "I feel like, yeah, we all have our moments where we're pushed to the limit, but there's a line that he crossed. I don't think this man should be called a hero at all."

Asked by reporters to respond, Turman said only, "I can't answer for the intent of the minds of those people you spoke to."

While Slater may have tapped into some people's frustrations with their jobs in a time of seemingly endless cutbacks, Tracy notes, some say it's really a cautionary tale. "This guy reminds me of if Mel Gibson were the one monitoring your flight," observed Robert Thompson, director of the Bleier Center for Television and Popular Culture. "Who knows -- what if the next time this guy goes off and loses his cool, he decides to open the emergency exit when the plane's still up in the air?"

JetBlue has suspended Slater, who has some criminal charges pending as a result of the incident, and there's no word on whether the carrier will allow him to return to work.

The Deneroff interview:

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