Story highlights

One of Gary Johnson's biggest moments yet was a foreign policy gaffe

He struggled on live TV yet again

Washington CNN  — 

Gary Johnson is trying to be a major figure on the world stage, and it doesn’t sound like he’s doing it for the company.

The Libertarian presidential nominee was asked by MSNBC’s Chris Matthews during a town hall forum to name his “favorite foreign leader.”

Johnson began to restate the question, and Matthews interrupted: “Any one of the continents, any country. Name one foreign leader that you respect and look up to, anybody.”

The former New Mexico governor sighed, and his running mate, former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld, said his would be Shimon Peres, the recently deceased Israeli statesman.

“I’m talking about living. You gotta do this. Anywhere, any continent. Canada, Mexico, Europe, over there, Asia, South America, Africa. Name a foreign leader that you respect,” Matthews said.

Johnson, still struggling to answer the question, offered: “I guess I’m having an Aleppo moment … the former president of Mexico.”

The third-party candidate was referencing his now infamous on-air appearance from the beginning of September when he responded to a question about Aleppo – a city at the center of Syria’s civil war and the heart of a refugee crisis as a result – asking: “What is Aleppo?”

His failure to identify a city that has become a focal point of the war in Syria, its human toll and resulting refugee crisis, signaled to many he was lacking in basic foreign policy knowledge.

On Wednesday, as Johnson continued to struggle with the “favorite world leader” question, calling it a “brain freeze,” Weld offered up “Vicente Fox,” the former president of Mexico who has become among the most outspoken critics of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.

Johnson confirmed Fox was the leader he was thinking of, and Weld went on to say his favorite living world leader was German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

The following morning, Johnson sought to deflect the moment with a piece of good news. The Detroit News officially issued its presidential endorsement, backing Johnson over Trump or Hillary Clinton. This was the first time the paper’s GOP-leaning editorial board had not endorsed the Republican candidate for president since the paper’s founding in 1873.

The Detroit News wrote its endorsement before Johnson’s MSNBC appearance, but representatives for the paper appeared on CNN Thursday and said they stood by their endorsement regardless.

“We wouldn’t probably urge him to continue to do off-the-cuff interviews. It’s just not his strength,” said Nolan Finley, Detroit News editorial page editor.

By the afternoon, Johnson addressed the second “Aleppo moment” more squarely, tweeting a delayed rejoinder: “It’s been almost 24 hours…and I still can’t come up with a foreign leader I look up to.”

Asked about Johnson’s moment at a press gaggle on her campaign plane Thursday afternoon, Clinton made an implicit joke at the Libertarian’s expense.

“Oh, let me think,” Clinton said, feigning ignorance before answering, “One of my favorites is Angela Merkel.”

CNN’s Dan Merica contributed to this report.