Libertarian presidential nominee Gary Johnson drew a blank during a live interview on MSNBC this morning when asked what he would do to address the situation in Aleppo, perhaps the most devastated city in the five-year civil war in Syria.
"What is Aleppo?" Johnson replied when asked how he would address the crisis there.
"You're kidding," journalist Mike Barnicle said.
"No," Johnson said.
Barnicle then explained that he was talking about the Syrian conflict, and Johnson quickly found his footing and explained what he believes should be done about Syria, which he called "a mess."
"I think the only way that we deal with Syria is to join hands with Russia," Johnson said, "to diplomatically bring that to an end. But when we align ourselves with — when we've supported the opposition of the Free Syrian Army — the Free Syrian Army is also coupled with the Islamists and then the fact that we're also supporting the Kurds, and this is, it's just a mess. And that this is the result of regime change that we end up supporting and, inevitably, these regime changes have led to a less safe world."
"I'm incredibly frustrated with myself," Johnson later said, adding that he "feels horrible" and has to "get smarter."
Johnson, a former Republican governor of New Mexico, released an official statement explaining why he was initially confused by the Aleppo question.
"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," he said in the statement. "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."
He continued, "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."
Speaking on ABC's "The View" hours after his MSNBC interview, Johnson said there's "no excuse" for his lapse on Aleppo while reiterating that he thought the question was referring to an acronym.
Co-host Joy Behar told him she thinks the gaffe is disqualifying, to which he replied simply, "Fair enough, fair enough."
"I guess people will have to make that judgment," he continued. "For those that believe this is a disqualifier, so be it. Absolutely, it's fair game. I'm running for president of the United States, and hey, it's how you deal with adversity that ultimately determines success."