Journalists across the
country are reeling from a devastating loss last Wednesday night at the National Press Club. A once-in-a-century
showdown pitted nine journalists—including Chevy Chase’s own Ed Henry of Fox
News—against an equal number of lawmakers in that most American of traditions,
a spelling bee.
Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., walked away with the trophy declaring him the “Best Speller in the United States.”
Having lost a similar bee 100 years ago to Rep. Frank Willis of Ohio—with President Woodrow Wilson in attendance—the journalists had something to prove. They can walk away knowing that while Kaine was declared the overall winner, as a group they spelled more words correctly.
The event was the brain-child of Katy Steinmetz of Time Magazine. She discovered the history of the original bee while covering the Scripps National Spelling Bee. She said once she realized it had been a hundred years since the original, the opportunity seemed too good to pass up.
There were no presidents in attendance this Wednesday but the competition was just as fierce.
The first word of the night—read by Peter Sokolowski, editor-at-large for Merriam Webster—went to Rep. Matt Cartwright, D-Pa.
Unlike Vice President Quayle in 1992, Rep. Cartwright survived the dreaded “potato.”
Major Garrett of CBS was the sixth speller of the night and asked if CBS could please turn their cameras off, moments before spelling “vaccination” wrong.
By the end of the first round everyone was still standing. Garrett went on to misspell “entrepreneur” and became the first victim of the night. As he walked off stage he took a zen approach to his loss and said “It’s important to be first in life!”
Kate Nocera of Buzzfeed misspelled “pseudonym” and half way through the second round the journalists had taken a serious hit and seemed to be in trouble.
As the night went on the playing field evened out. After Henry spelled “epiglottis” wrong in the sixth round, Sokolowski pointed out that the competition had become a battle of the sexes, with the journalists represented entirely by women and the lawmakers entirely by men.
In the end, only two were left standing, Rebecca Sinderbrand of Politico and Sen. Kaine. Sinderbrand stumbled over "vicissitude,” and in preparation for his championship word, Kaine took his jacket off. He spelled "nonpareil" correctly to take home the trophy.
The big question was why anyone in the public eye would subject themselves to such a competition. Henry said that he was talked into it and wanted to set an example for his kids who were watching him from the audience.
“I was not expecting Kaine to win,” Henry
said, but went on to concede that “Kaine was amazing.”
It may be another hundred years before the journalists can seek revenge and until then a lawmaker remains the best speller in the nation.