Yesterday morning, Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson found himself in hot water after an interview on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe”. When asked what he would do about Aleppo, the major Syrian city that’s been a stronghold for opposition forces and is currently under siege by Bashar Assad’s government, Johnson responded: “and what is Aleppo?”. As Gary Johnson tries to make his case for being included in the upcoming debates, this stumble couldn’t have come at a worse time. Once the meaning of Aleppo was clarified, Johnson went on to call the situation in Syria “a mess”.
After this blunder, Johnson released a statement saying he thought Aleppo was an acronym, and that he “blanked”. Johnson admitted that while he can’t name every major city in Syria (I doubt any presidential candidate can), he should have identified Aleppo, and recognizes its significance. On Fox News, Johnson admitted that he’d most likely make more mistakes in the future, but he would always be transparent about them. House Speaker Paul Ryan brushed off the blank in an interview, saying that since Johnson is an “isolationist”, the blank is excusable.
The battle for Aleppo, a complicated issue to begin with, has become increasingly complex over time. According to Reuters, Iraqi Shiite militia members are preparing to join, while opposition forces battle Assad’s military for control. Assad’s regime was recently accused of another chlorine gas attack in a rebel-held area of the city.
Johnson’s awkward response to the question could hurt his presidential aspirations as he presses to be included in the upcoming presidential debates starting later this month. To nab a spot, Johnson needs at least 15 percent approval in five national polls; according to the Real Clear Politics polling average, he’s currently at 9. The prospects for Green Party candidate Jill Stein look even grimmer, with just 3 percent. While Gary Johnson’s awkward interview moment isn’t good for PR, Stein and her running mate Ajamu Baraka are facing charges of criminal trespass and criminal mischief after being caught on camera spray-painting construction equipment during a protest of a Dakota Access Pipeline.