BOSTON (AP) — Libertarian vice presidential candidate Bill Weld is downplaying criticism of running mate Gary Johnson after Johnson was initially stumped on a question about Syria’s civil war.
During an interview Thursday on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” Johnson was asked what he would do about Aleppo. Johnson initially said “What is Aleppo?” then offered an answer when reminded it is Syria’s largest city and has been engulfed by the country’s ongoing civil war.
Johnson later apologized in a statement, saying he was thinking of an acronym, not the Syrian city.
Weld, speaking at Emerson College in Boston on Thursday, brushed aside criticism, saying the two have been talking about Syria on the campaign trail.
“In terms of Gary forgetting the word, I don’t know. I think that can happen to anyone,” Weld said. “Occasionally you do blank because you’re thinking about something else and you don’t take the question the right way.”
Weld said he viewed the clip and didn’t think It was so bad.
“I know there are self-appointed hystericists mostly located in the New York blog community who think it’s really terrible, but let’s wait and see,” he added.
The former Republican Massachusetts governor said he remains hopeful Johnson will be allowed on the debate stage alongside Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump and Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.
Weld pointed to a recent Washington Post poll of 50 states which found Johnson receiving at least 15 percent support in 15 states. Fifteen percent in national public polls has been set as the threshold to get into the televised debates. Other polls have shown Johnson receiving less support.
There have been recent calls to let Johnson into the debates, including from another former Massachusetts Republican governor — Mitt Romney — the GOP presidential nominee in 2012 and a fierce critic of Trump.
On Wednesday, Romney tweeted: “I hope voters get to see former GOP Governors Gary Johnson and Bill Weld on the debate stages this fall.”
Weld said he’s seen an uptick in donations to the ticket. He said the two are seeing support from younger, “free thinking” voters, including some who supported Democrat Bernie Sanders in the primary.
On the question about the best way to deal with terrorist threats in the United States, Weld — a former U.S. Attorney for Massachusetts — said he would create a 1,000 member FBI task force dedicated to tracking lone wolf killers.
He also compared Trump’s campaign to Big Brother in George Orwell’s dystopian novel “1984” and said unlike Trump, he and Johnson would fly the GOP banner “without the mean-spiritedness.”
Weld is clearly enjoying himself.
Speaking to students and reporters, Weld compared himself both to a kid eating ice cream and to Rosie Ruiz the first woman to cross the finish line of the Boston Marathon in 1980 who was then stripped of the victory after officials determined she skipped part of the race and jumped ahead.
Weld only jumped into the presidential contest in May.