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Libertarian nominee Gary Johnson: "What is Aleppo?"

Johnson's Aleppo gaffe
Gary Johnson causes a firestorm after Aleppo gaffe 01:59

Gary Johnson, the Libertarian party’s presidential nominee, made a foreign policy faux pas early Thursday morning, when he indicated in an MSNBC interview that he didn’t know about the war-torn Syrian city of Aleppo.

During an interview on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” panelist Mike Barnicle asked Johnson, a former governor of New Mexico: “What would you do, if you were elected, about Aleppo?” 

Johnson said: “About...?” 

“Aleppo,” Barnicle repeated. 

“And,” Johnson asked, “what is Aleppo?”

Barnicle, in seeming disbelief, said: “You’re kidding.” 

“No,” Johnson said. 

Libertarian candidates Johnson and Weld push for support before debates 05:49

“Aleppo is in Syria,” Barnicle explained. “It’s the epicenter of the refugee crisis.”

“OK, got it, got it,” Johnson interrupted. “Well, with regard to Syria, I do think that it’s a mess and that the only way that we deal with Syria is to join hands with Russia to diplomatically bring that at an end.” 

Later, Johnson was asked by Bloomberg’s Mark Halperin how he felt about the interview. 

“I’m incredibly frustrated with myself,” he said. 

When pressed whether Johnson felt it should be considered a “big flap,” the former New Mexico governor replied: “Well sure, it should. Absolutely.”

Following the interview, Johnson attempted some damage control, releasing a statement that said he “blanked” when asked about Aleppo. 

“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,” Johnson wrote. “I blanked.  It happens, and it will happen again during the course of this campaign.”

“Can I name every city in Syria? No,” he continued. “Should I have identified Aleppo? Yes. Do I understand its significance? Yes.” 

Johnson went on to say that while he served as New Mexico’s governor, “there were many things I didn’t know off the top of my head.” 

But, he said, “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.”

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