A Quayle in the hand…

On this day in 1992, William Figueroa, age 12, a sixth-grade speller from Trenton, New Jersey, successfully wrote “potato” on a chalkboard during a spelling bee.

And a moment later, Vice President Dan Quayle made history — but not the kind of history that politician ever want to make.

Quayle looked from William’s blackboard answer to the spelling card in his hand, and back again. Then he gently corrected William’s work. “You’re close, but you left a little something off. The e on the end.” William went back to the board, added an “e” and took his seat. The assembled crowd applauded.

With those few words, Quayle etched his indelible E-shaped mark into political history.

The Trenton paper ran the gaffe on the front page. It quickly grew into national news, and from there into fodder for late-night comedy. And the rest, as they say, is histor-e.


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