Libertarian presidential nominee Gary Johnson required the assistance of a television program host to explain to him what Aleppo is -- the city in Syria that has been ravaged by civil war and is the center of the refugee crisis (video below).
“What would you do if you were elected about Aleppo,” MSNBC's "Morning Joe” host Mike Barnicle asked Johnson during a Sept. 8 interview.
“And what is Aleppo?” Johnson responded.
“You’re kidding?” Barnicle asked, of which Johnson said, “No.”
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“Aleppo is in Syria. It’s the epicenter of the refugee crisis,” Barnicle explained before the former governor of New Mexico cut him off.
“OK, got it, got it,” Johnson interjected, and then gave his thoughts on the crisis in Syria.
“Well, with regard to Syria, I do think it’s a mess. I think the only way that we deal with Syria is to join hands with Russia. To diplomatically bring that at an end,” he said, adding that U.S. support of various groups in Syria, as well as the country's support for regime changes, has led to a less safe world.
As the interview continued, host Joe Scarborough questioned Johnson’s qualifications to be president because he did not know about Aleppo.
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"You asked, 'What is Aleppo?' Do you really think that foreign policy is so insignificant that somebody running for president of the United States shouldn't even know what Aleppo is, where Aleppo is, why Aleppo is so important?" Scarborough asked.
"I do understand Aleppo. And I understand the crisis that is going on, but when we involve ourselves militarily, when we involve ourselves in these humanitarian issues we end up with a situation that in most cases is not better and in many cases ends up being worse," Johnson said.
In a statement obtained by USA Today following the "Morning Joe" interview, Johnson referred to his blunder as human error and said such errors would not happen if he is elected president.
This morning, I began my day by setting aside any doubt that I’m human. Yes, I understand the dynamics of the Syrian conflict -- I talk about them every day. But hit with "What about Aleppo?," I immediately was thinking about an acronym, not the Syrian conflict. I blanked. It happens, and it will happen again during the course of this campaign.
Can I name every city in Syria? No. Should I have identified Aleppo? Yes. Do I understand its significance? Yes.
As Governor, there were many things I didn’t know off the top of my head. But I succeeded by surrounding myself with the right people, getting to the bottom of important issues, and making principled decisions. It worked. That is what a President must do.
That would begin, clearly, with daily security briefings that, to me, will be fundamental to the job of being President.
After the "Morning Joe" interview and the hashtag #whatisaleppo began trending on Twitter, Johnson reportedly canceled an interview he had scheduled later in the day with a New York talk radio program.