Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Remember when Dan Quayle made a kid misspell “potato”?

Photo: Andrey Elkin (iStock), Chris Wilkins (AFP/Getty Images)

June 15, 1992—a day that will live in infamy. The day George H.W. Bush’s Vice President, Dan Quayle, told a 12-year-old that he misspelled “potato” whilst judging a 6th-grade spelling bee. The then-Veep adamantly insisted that the word is spelled “potatoe,” in front of a room full of students, teachers, Secret Servicemen, and God.

Potatogate went on to become one of Quayle’s most memorable moments during his brief VP tenure, but whatever happened to that cute kid who, with a look of understandable disbelief on his face, dutifully added the unnecessary “e” to the end of the tuber, presumably because he’s a patriot, and freedom isn’t free, goddamnit? Well, BuzzFeed News tracked him down yesterday for an episode of That Literally Happened, which recounts the whole strange, sad, starchy saga.

“I knew it was a bad day for him, but it was a good day for me,” the now-fortysomething William Figueroa recounted to Buzzfeed. “I thought that he just didn’t understand my handwriting, maybe.”

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As historian Michael Koncewicz explains in the video, Quayle’s misspelling of an elementary grade-level word was just one incident in a long history of saying really, really stupid shit. BuzzFeed even highlights some of his dumbass deep-cuts, like that time he stressed the importance of “the bondage between a parent and child.”

Unfortunately, the episode doesn’t really give us a major update on Figueroa’s life since his brush with greatness, but a quick search reveals that he seems to be living a pretty normal, all-American life as a Walmart manager and father of two (as of 2005), having moved on from his short stint as “the potato kid.” Quayle, on the other hand, later called the incident “a defining moment of the worst kind imaginable.”

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If there’s any silver lining to this, it’s that we assume current VP Mike Pence can at least properly spell his root vegetables, although he probably only lets Mother handle them in the kitchen, because they’re too uncomfortably phallic for him.

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Andrew Paul

Andrew Paul's work is recently featured by Rolling Stone, GQ, The Forward, and The Believer, as well as McSweeney's Internet Tendency and TNY's Daily Shouts.