WASHINGTON – Maybe he should stick to baseball.
Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake does pretty well in the annual congressional baseball game for charity, but for a second year he was bounced in the early rounds of a charity “Politicians vs. the Press” spelling bee Wednesday night.
And the Republican senator did worse this time than he did two years ago, when he made it to the fourth round before being eliminated for misspelling “malfeasance” and “shenanigans.” This time around, Flake was gone after the first two rounds, in which he misspelled “chastisement” and “dissolution.”
About 375 people paid $10 to $15 a ticket to the National Press Club event, with a portion of the proceeds going to the National Press Club Journalism Institute, press club officials said in an email Thursday.
Flake was one of eight lawmakers – two senators and six House members – who took on a team of eight journalists. The rules were just like the more famous Scripps National Spelling Bee – but with fewer TV cameras, much less stress and no anxious parents in the audience.
The contestants took turns at the podium where they were given a word to spell by Jacques Bailly, the official pronouncer from the Scripps Bee. They could ask for a definition of the word or for its use in a sentence – or, as Flake asked at one point, its use “in a long story,” drawing laughs from the crowd.
Flake drew several laughs during the evening, offering that Republicans can’t spell “speaker” and introducing himself as “the only Republican on this (politicians’) side of the stage, and probably that (press) side, too.”
Unfortunately, Minnesota Republican Rep. Tom Emmer was also on Flake’s side of the stage, giving him an opening after Flake was eliminated: “Now there’s only one Republican up here,” Emmer said.
The competition did not get off to an auspicious start, with ABC News correspondent David Kerley whiffing on “ambiguity” and finding no takers for his argument that broadcasters “just have to know how to say” words and not spell them.
A misspelled word was greeted with a bell. Contestants were eliminated after getting two wrong.
Flake’s first word was “chastisement,” but he got the bell after forgetting to include the first “e.” When Flake was given “dissolution” in the second round, he spelled d-i-s-a-l-l-u-t-i-o-n, drawing the deadly second bell.
But Flake was not the only spelling-challenged lawmaker. Rep. Don Beyer, D-Va., was the only politician still standing after the sixth round, to face the six remaining reporters.
The crowd was quick to throw its support to Beyer, who did not disappoint, methodically spelling through round 23, as reporters fell by the wayside, until he was the champion. It was the second time the politicians have beaten the press.
Flake cheered his teammate on from the audience, but not before poking fun at himself with an intentionally misspelled tweet about his second-round exit.
“Dang, I’m disillusioned that I got out on ‘dissolution’,” he tweeted. “I think I’ll stick to legisslating.”