On Thursday morning, Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson flubbed a question about the Syrian city of Aleppo from MSNBC host Mike Barnicle.
“What would you do, if you were elected, about Aleppo?” Barnicle asked, referring to the Syrian city subjected to fierce fighting in the country’s civil war.
“And what is Aleppo?” Johnson responded.
You can watch the full exchange here.
Smug online fact-checkers immediately kicked it into overdrive, seeing who could publish the most preening fact-check of Johnson first.
Alan Rappeport of the New York Times quickly published the definitive piece for the paper of record excoriating Johnson for his ignorance. Unfortunately for Rappeport, his piece was also riddled with errors. Unlike Johnson, who was asked a question on the spot, the New York Times reporter had the Internet, paid editors, and all the time in the world to help him avoid making a bunch of embarrassing errors.
In spite of all that, NYT was still forced to publish not one, but two corrections of Rappeport’s reporting:
Courtesy of newsdiffs.org, here’s what the NYT published in its first attempt to mock Johnson for his lack of knowledge:
Gary Johnson, the former New Mexico governor and Libertarian Party presidential nominee, revealed a surprising lack of foreign policy knowledge on Thursday that could rock his insurgent candidacy when he could not answer a basic question about the crisis in Aleppo, Syria.
“What is Aleppo?” Mr. Johnson said when asked on MSNBC how, as president, he would address the refugee crisis in the Syrian city that is the de facto capital of the Islamic State.
Whoops. Aleppo is not the de facto capital of the Islamic State. Raqqa is. After realizing its error, NYT published this correction:
An earlier version of this article misidentified the de facto capital of the Islamic State. It is Raqqa, in northern Syria, not Aleppo, the Syrian capital.
Oops, they did it again. Aleppo is not the Syrian capital. Damascus is the Syrian capital. So the New York Times then had to issue a correction of its correction three long hours after the original article was published.
It turns out that providing a correct answer to the question “What is Aleppo?” is a lot harder than it looks. Especially if you’re a journalist with a surprising lack of foreign policy knowledge.