On MSNBC, Gary Johnson Asks ‘What Is Aleppo?’

By Mark Joyella 

Asking a presidential candidate what they would do about a major foreign policy issue would not usually be considered a gotcha question. But this is 2016.

MSNBC’s Morning Joe delivered one of the most awkward candidate answers of the presidential campaign Thursday morning, as Libertarian presidential nominee Gary Johnson seemed stumped by the question: “What would you do, if elected, about Aleppo?”

The question left Johnson momentarily speechless, before responding “and what is Aleppo?”

That was followed by this:

MIKE BARNICLE: “You’re kidding.”


BARNICLE: “Aleppo is in Syria. It’s the epicenter of the refugee crisis.”

JOHNSON: “OK, got it, got it.”

Pressed later by Morning Joe co-host Joe Scarborough, Johnson was asked “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?”

Later, in conversation with co-host Mika Brzezinski, Scarborough described the exchange with Johnson. “It would be like asking, ‘What is Sarajevo?’ in 1991. It is stunning.”

Screen Shot 2016-09-08 at 9.12.14 AMAfter his interview, Johnson attempted off camera to explain his answer, talking to Mark Halperin, who shot the exchange on his cell phone.

Halperin told Johnson, “It’s going to be a big flap, I promise you” before Johnson admitted that while he knew the overall situation in Syria and why it was important, he was not entirely aware of the city that has come to embody much of the crisis. “I need to learn more.”