Newly crowned Spelling Bee champion Ananya Vinay was the target of a rude and shocking statement by TV host on morning television in the United States.
In a statement many have labelled "racist" and "offensive" CNN anchor Alisyn Camerota has been widely criticised for suggesting Vinay, 12, is more familiar with using Sanskrit, an ancient language connected with Hinduism, than English.
Vinay, a sixth-grader from California, has an Indian ancestral background, but has grown up as an American citizen in Fresno, between Los Angeles and San Francisco.
The polite champion appeared via a live video link on CNN's New Day and was quickly thrown off by Camerota's request for her to attempt to spell "covfefe" - the nonsense word made famous when US President Donald Trump muddled up a sentence.
Vinay was obviously confused by the strange request, but kept her cool by asking for the origin of the word as she had trained herself to do when preparing for last week's spelling competition.
She was mid-way through spelling the word when Camerota cut her off.
"It's a nonsense word," the CNN host said.
"So, we're not sure that its root is actually in Sanskrit, which is what you're probably, uh, used to using, so, I don't know. Anyway," Camerota said.
Vinay did not appear to take offence to the comment, but Camerota was widely criticised on social media.
CNN has announced in a statement it will be standing by Camerota, Yahoo 7 reported.
"Alisyn made the same joking reference to the root of 'covfefe' in an earlier panel discussion that aired Wednesday," the CNN statement said.
"If she's guilty of anything it's recycling a joke. To assign a bias to what was a fun and innocent segment celebrating Ananya Vinay's incredible accomplishment is frankly extremely cynical."
Commentators on social media were less forgiving of the TV host.
Ananya became 13th consecutive Indian-American to win the Scripps National Spelling Bee and the 18th of the past 22 winners with Indian heritage - a run that began in 1999 with Nupur Lala's victory, which was featured in the documentary "Spellbound."
Ananya didn't come into the bee as the most heralded speller, but she outclassed her better-known competitors and survived a long duel with 14-year-old Rohan Rajeev to win the 90th Scripps bee on Friday.
She won more than $40,000 in cash and prizes and her unflappable character has won her fans around the world.
Ananya never looked all that impressed by the words she was given. She rarely took even half her allotted two minutes to spell. Sometimes she would blurt out questions in a monotone, disinterested appearance.
It turns out she just needed a challenge.
"I knew them all," Ananya said after her win.
She seized the opportunity when Rohan flubbed a simple-looking but obscure Scandinavian-derived word, "marram," which means a beach grass. She calmly nailed two words in a row, ending on "marocain," which means a type of dress fabric of ribbed crepe.
Ananya's parents and brother stormed onto the stage to embrace her as the confetti fell.
She took time to console Rohan, who remained in his seat, wiping tears from his eyes.
When told she would have to give a speech during the closing ceremony on Saturday, her confidence shone through.
She revealed she'd written her winning speech weeks before the competition.
- with AP