Libertarian Party presidential nominee Gary Johnson said he was “incredibly frustrated” with himself after appearing not to recognize the name of the Syrian city of Aleppo in a TV interview Thursday.
“And what is Aleppo?” Johnson asked on MSNBC when he was questioned on what he would do about the besieged Syrian city.
“You’re kidding,” commentator Mike Barnicle said. “No,” Johnson replied. “Aleppo is in Syria, it’s the epicenter of the refugee crisis,” Barnicle said.
“OK, got it,” Johnson said, going on to provide a general answer about the Syrian conflict, where he said the only viable option “is to join hands with Russia to diplomatically” resolve the conflict.
The exchange, which sent the phrase “What is Aleppo” to Twitter’s worldwide trends list, is a blow to a third-party candidate trying to capitalize on the unpopularity of Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton.
Johnson,a former two-term Republican governor of New Mexico, has been campaigning for a spot on the stage at the first presidential debate on Sept. 26. To qualify, he would have to reach a 15 percent average in five national polls recognized by the presidential debate commission.
The Republican presidential nominee in 2012, Mitt Romney, said Wednesday on Twitter that he hoped voters would get to see Johnson and his running mate, former Massachusetts Governor William Weld, on the debate stages this fall. Romney, a leading Republican critic of Trump, stopped short of endorsing the Libertarian ticket.
“I’m incredibly frustrated with myself,” Johnson said in an interview taped off-set after the gaffe and aired on MSNBC. Bloomberg’s Mark Halperin, who taped the interview, said Johnson said he needs to learn more and that his team appeared clearly chastened.