Seeking to recover from a campaign gaffe in which he appeared not to be aware of the humanitarian crisis in the Syrian city of Aleppo, Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson seemed to struggle again on Saturday while discussing the country's civil war.
Speaking to Michael Smerconish on CNN, the former New Mexico governor fumbled for some five seconds while describing how loyalists to former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein fled to the Syrian city of Raqqa, now an ISIS stronghold.
"We're there [in Syria] in the first place because we do support regime change, which I think has resulted in what is happening right now in Syria," he said. "And that started with Iraq and, um, Raqqa and the fleeing of, um, ah...Saddam Hussein's loyalists that fled to Raqqa."
After the US invasion of Iraq, some former members of Hussein's Ba'ath party joined militant groups that would later evolve into the current iteration of ISIS.
The awkward moment came just days after Johnson appeared flummoxed when asked on MSNBC what he would do to end the suffering in Aleppo.
"What is Aleppo?” he asked.
“You’re kidding,” reporter Mike Barnicle responded.
Johnson later said he had been confused by the question, thinking Aleppo was an acronym.
"I blanked," he said in a statement. "It happens, and it will happen again during the course of this campaign.”
During his CNN interview on Saturday, Johnson said he had "no excuse" for the gaffe — even if the average American did not fully understand the complexities of the Syrian conflict.
"The person on the street is not running for president of the United States," he said. "But understanding what is happening in Syria, that it is very serious."
David Mack is a reporter and weekend editor for BuzzFeed News in New York.
Contact David Mack at email@example.com.
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