'What is Aleppo?' US presidential candidate Gary Johnson asks stunned media

US Libertarian Party presidential candidate Gary Johnson speaking on July 7, 2016, in Washington, DC.
US Libertarian Party presidential candidate Gary Johnson speaking on July 7, 2016, in Washington, DC.PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON (AFP/REUTERS) - Presidential candidate Gary Johnson floored the hosts of a US news show on Thursday (Sept 8) when he asked "What is Aleppo?" in response to a question about the battlefront Syrian city.

Journalist Mike Barnicle, who asked the Libertarian White House contender what he would do about the Aleppo crisis if elected, replied with an incredulous "you're kidding me," to Johnson's professed ignorance on the subject.

"Aleppo is in Syria," Barnicle explained to Johnson, in seeming disbelief.

"It's the epicentre of the refugee crisis."

After the clarification, the candidate offered that "with regard to Syria, I do think it's a mess."

He added: "I think that the only way that we deal with Syria is to join hands with Russia to diplomatically bring that at an end."

Once Syria's economic powerhouse, Aleppo has been ravaged by the war that began in the country in March 2011.

Johnson, a former two-term governor of New Mexico and the Libertarian Party candidate in the 2016 US presidential race, is seeking inclusion in upcoming presidential debates against Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump, which require a candidate receive 15 per cent in polls to participate.

Johnson has been trying to turn the two major candidates’ negative approval ratings to his advantage in the race to win the Nov 8 election.

A Washington Post-Survey Monkey poll released on Wednesday found that Johnson, who is hardly ever included in presidential polling, is supported by an average of 13 per cent across all states.

The hashtag #WhatIsAleppo began trending on Twitter soon after Johnson's comment, as people weighed in with sarcasm and disbelief.

"You hear that? That's the sound of Gary Johnson's campaign coming to a crashing halt," one user posted as another speculated that Aleppo "was one of the Marx Brothers, right?"

Some social media users expressed disappointment, posting pictures of the devastation in Syria with statements such as "This is Aleppo."