The Libertarian candidate for president has apparently not been keeping close tabs on the Syrian civil war that has decimated the country and created hundreds of thousands of refugees.
In back-to-back Thursday interviews on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” and in the lobby of the network’s offices, Gary Johnson made it clear that he was not familiar with Syria’s second-largest city, which has been hit in recent weeks by a series of devastating chemical gas attacks and targeted bombing strikes on its few remaining medical facilities.
“What would you do if you were elected about Aleppo?” Mike Barnicle asked Gary Johnson on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”
“About?” Johnson asked.
“Aleppo,” Barnicle repeated/
“And what is Aleppo?” Johnson asked sunnily, to the astonishment of the “Morning Joe” hosts.
“You’re kidding,” Barnicle said.
“No,” Johnson replied.
“Aleppo is in Syria. It’s the epicenter of the refugee crisis,” Barnicle said.
“Okay got it, got it,” Johnson said. “Well with regard to Syria I do think that it’s a mess. I think the only way that we deal with Syria is to join hands with Russia to diplomatically bring that to an end.”
The former New Mexico governor attributed the turmoil in Syria to “regime change.”
“Aleppo is the center of a lot of people’s concerns across the planet about the terrible humanitarian crisis that is unfolding not only in Syria, but especially in Aleppo,” Joe Scarborough interjected. “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?”
“I do understand Aleppo and I understand the crisis that is going on,” Johnson said. “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.”
— Morning Joe (@Morning_Joe) September 8, 2016
Unfortunately, matters did not improve for Johnson when “Morning Joe” host Mark Halperin caught up with him in the lobby of MSNBC’s office after the taping.
Told that “people are making a big deal” about his comments, which began trending on Twitter almost immediately, Johnson was asked how he felt about what had just transpired.
“Well when you recognize what’s going on on Syria, when you recognize that Aleppo is kind of the epicenter,” Johnson fumbled, making slashing motions with his hands.
“Aleppo, not knowing there’s a city between the two forces really at the epicenter, but not remembering or identifying that that’s Aleppo, guilty,” he went on, confusingly.
“But in retrospect, is it a town you know?” Halperin pressed. “I mean this is going to be a big deal. This is like the first big flap of a campaign that’s been doing pretty well, right? This is gong to be a big flap I promise you.”
A bashful-looking Johnson replied that he was “incredibly frustrated” with his response.
“I understand the significance,” he said later in the painful two-and-a-half-minute interview. “Believe me, no one is taking this more seriously than me. I feel horrible.”
“What do you think will happen?” Halperin asked.
“Well, I have to get smarter and that’s just part of the process,” Johnson replied.