We asked the governor about Ernie after he told the story today for the umpteenth time, kicking off his speech to Nashville's First Tuesday Republican club.
"Is Ernie real?"
"Noooooooooooo," Haslam said, shamelessly, as if it were a stupid question.
"You mean that story just sprang from your fertile imagination?" a shocked Pith asked.
No, Haslam said, he stole the anecdote from somewhere. He said he thinks Bill Clinton used to tell it about Hillary.
"You mean, there's some kind of political joke book that you guys steal from?"
"If there is, I need one because I keep telling the same ones over and over," the governor replied.
The AP's Erik Schelzig whipped out this story about this breaking news.
Here's the Ernie anecdote in its entirety. Notice all the little personal details that Haslam throws in to give it an air of authenticity. When he told it, we laughed really hard right along with the rest of the crowd. We feel so used.
And so we were going somewhere about four or five weeks ago and it was Crissy and me and the state trooper driving, and Crissy said, ‘Hey, if we have time I’d love to stop in and grab a Diet Coke somewhere.’ And so he pulls into a convenience store real quick, and I said, ‘I’m fine.’ I was on the phone, and so Crissy runs in. And through the front window of the convenience store, I could see her. And she gets up to the cashier and they give each other this huge hug. We weren’t at a Pilot, so I’m thinking, ‘What’s going on?’ She comes back in the car and I said, ‘What was that all about?’ And she says, ‘What are you talking about?’ And I said, ‘With the cashier?’ And she said, ‘Oh, that was Ernie.’ And I said, ‘Ernie?’ And she said, ‘Yeah, Ernie, my high school boyfriend.’ And I said, ‘Oh, OK.’ And I turned and kind of looked out the window, and I must have been smiling or something. And she said, ‘What are you smiling about?’ And I said, 'I was thinking, what if you’d married Ernie?’ And she said, ‘Well then, Ernie would be the governor.’