Weld on Aleppo gaffe: 'It's quite a moment on television'

Weld on Aleppo gaffe: 'Quite a moment on television'
Weld on Aleppo gaffe: 'Quite a moment on television'

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Weld on Aleppo gaffe: 'Quite a moment on television' 01:34

Story highlights

  • Libertarian VP nominee William Weld defended his running mate Gary Johnson
  • Weld said his Aleppo remarks shouldn't be disqualifying

(CNN)Libertarian vice president nominee William Weld said Friday that he doesn't think running mate Gary Johnson's failure to identify the besieged Syrian city of Aleppo should disqualify him from being president.

Still, even Weld admitted, "You know, there's no denying it's quite a moment on television."
    In an interview Friday on "New Day," Weld told CNN's Chris Cuomo that Johnson understood "the wider context" of the refugee crisis despite the high-profile slip.
    "I think Gary just didn't realize the context was Syria or geography or anything like that," Weld said. Weld added that if the question to Johnson had been, "'What do you think about the terrible atrocities of the refugee problem in Aleppo', that would put it in context."
    Asked what effect the gaffe might have on the campaign, Weld said, "We'll have to wait and see whether people think that not picking up on the name of a town in Syria is a mortal sin." He added, "I don't think it does a great deal."
    But Weld acknowledged that the episode comes at a difficult time for a long-shot campaign fighting to register the 15% support in national polls needed to get onto the presidential debate stage later this month. "It comes as we're in the final stretches of the decision-making about who's going to be in the debates, and that's what's really front and center on our minds," he said.
    Johnson made headlines Thursday when, appearing on MSNBC's "Morning Joe," he blanked in response to co-host Mike Barnicle's question about what he would do to address the refugee crisis engulfing the Syrian city.
    "What would you do if you were elected about Aleppo?" Barnicle had asked.
    "And what is Aleppo?" Johnson replied.
    In a follow up interview just after the show with Bloomberg News' Mark Halperin, a frequent guest analyst on "Morning Joe," Johnson had said he was "incredibly frustrated" with himself but admitted he'd been caught flat-footed.
    "Not remembering or identifying that that's Aleppo -- guilty," he said. "I understand the significance. Genuinely -- believe me, no one is taking this more seriously than me. I feel horrible."
    Johnson later issued an unconventional press statement that sought to explain, in great detail, his error and to brace his supporters for mistakes to come:
    "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. 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."