For a while, the rumors became misunderstood into thinking that Bert would be the one that would be killed off, saying that his performer, Frank Oz, died of either AIDS or a car crash.
The rumor became more widespread in 1991 when Michael Tabor, a college student in New Hampshire, took the then-small rumors too seriously. At his college graduation, all the graduations were wearing "Save Ernie" beanies and signing a petition to save the character. However, by the time he found out the "Ernie's Death" rumor was false, it already hit the papers. Ernie is alive and well, and we have no intention of anything happening to him or anyone else."
- Children's Television Workshop spokeswoman Carolyn Miller