Appear on TV often enough and you are bound to make a mistake. It is how you recover — or don’t that makes all the difference.
Political campaigns are especially prone to gaffes. Remember President Ford declaring that the Soviets would never dominate Eastern Europe…while they were occupying large parts of it? Of Governor Jan Brewer’s brain freeze when she ran out of words? Or Governor Rick Perry’s inability to remember the three departments of government he promised to eliminate if elected President?
Yesterday Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson was appearing on MSNBC’s Morning Joe. It was a great opportunity for him on the day after NBC’s Commander in Chief Forum to demonstrate he too was ready for prime time. He wasn’t.
After getting some routine questions on polls and the like columnist Mike Barnicle asked him this:
BARNICLE: What would you do, if you were elected, about Aleppo?
JOHNSON: And what is Aleppo?
BARNICLE: You’re kidding.
BARNICLE: Aleppo is in Syria. It’s the — it’s the epicenter of the refugee crisis.
JOHNSON: OK, got it, got it.
At first we thought that perhaps Johnson just misheard the question. Or he was groggy having failed to have enough coffee before his Morning Joe. But then he had to deal with the fallout. Almost immediately he was interviewed (on an I-phone) by Mark Halperin who told him his mistake would be viewed as a big deal. Johnson agreed and said it should be viewed as such. He added that he was incredibly frustrated with himself.
Then he appeared on ABC’s “The View” and said that: “For those who believe this is a disqualifier, so be it.”
Eventually he put out a statement trying to explain the lapse. According to Politico he said:
“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,” Johnson said in a statement to POLITICO. “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.
“Can I name every city in Syria? No. Should I have identified Aleppo? Yes. Do I understand its significance? Yes.”
Interviewees will always make mistakes — but if they want to succeed in politics, business or life — they need to be much quicker on the recovery and need to avoid making matters worse by agreeing with reporters that the gaffe was a big deal and may be viewed as disqualifying.