WASHINGTON D.C.: The Press vs Politicians Spelling Bee was first held in 1913, when members of the House and Senate spelled their way to triumph over the press. President Woodrow Wilson was in the audience for the inaugural event, which was revived in 2013 for its 100-year anniversary. Politicians were last victorious in 2015 with Rep. Don Beyer’s (D-Va.) win.
It was a W-I-N for journalists: The Washington press corps secured its third consecutive victory against lawmakers at the National Press Club’s annual Press vs Politicians Spelling Bee Sept. 27, with Alexandra Petri of The Washington Post clinching the championship title.
Members of the press and a team of lawmakers squared off in an evening filled with humor and light-hearted jabs toward each other. The Scripps National Spelling Bee’s official pronouncer Dr. Jacques Bailly also kept the audience and contestants laughing with comical examples of the words in question. Former Club President Thomas Burr of the Salt Lake Tribune moderated the event.
The press team featuring 2017 champion Todd Gillman of The Dallas Morning News, Club Vice President Alison Fitzgerald Kodjak of NPR, John M. Donnelly of CQ Roll Call and Tamar Hallerman of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution overall spelled 29 words correctly.
Petri earned the coveted NPC Bee Champion Belt spelling “gallica,” a species of rose. She beat out runner-up Kodjak, who lasted until misspelling “nymphosis” — the process by which an insect changes into a nymph.
Lawmakers including Reps. Suzanne Bonamici (D-Ore.), Ted Deutch (D-Fla.), Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) and Mark Takano (D-Calif.) racked up 16 correctly spelled words in total. Deutch was the last politician on stage, coming in third after flubbing “diphthong.”
Each round in the competition centered on a theme, including new additions to the Merriam-Webster dictionary and recently trending words, from “asylum” to “sequacious.” Spellers breezed through the round on U.S. governmental departments and agencies with words such as “consular,” “delinquency” and “noxious.”
But the category of Scottish-origin words proved more challenging for most contestants, and only Petri and Deutch succeeded with correct spellings of “broose” and “shilpit,” respectively. Petri was also the only competitor to correctly spell all of her words without using the two strikes granted to participants.
Reported by: Kanwal Abidi – White House Correspondent & Bureau Chief, Washington D.C.