Miami Mayor Francis Suarez, who is running for the 2024 Republican nomination for president, appeared stumped by a simple question about the issue of Uyghur Muslims in China during a radio interview Tuesday.
During the 15-minute interview, talk show host Hugh Hewitt asked Suarez whether he will be talking about the Uyghurs, the ethnic minority in China’s Xinjiang region, during his campaign. (The U.S. has accused China of committing genocide in its crackdown of the Uyghurs, including through the use of detention camps.)
“The what?” Suarez responded to Hewitt’s question, leading the host to repeat: “The Uyghurs.”
“What’s a Uyghur?” Suarez said.
Hewitt said Suarez has “got to get smart on that.”
At the end of the interview, Suarez joked that Hewitt gave him homework.
“I’ll look at what a, what was it, what did you call it, a weeble?” Suarez said, chuckling.
Hewitt corrected him and said: “You really need to know about the Uyghurs, mayor.”
The interview ended with Suarez promising to “search Uyghurs,” adding “I’m a good learner. I’m a fast learner.”
In a statement to Semafor, Suarez said he “didn’t recognize the pronunciation” Hewitt used, adding: “That’s on me.”
“Of course, I am well aware of the suffering of the Uyghurs in China. They are being enslaved because of their faith,” Suarez said. “China has a deplorable record on human rights and all people of faith suffer there.”
After the interview, Hewitt tweeted that Suarez did well for his first on-air conversation focused on national security — “except for the high blind spot on the Uyghurs.”
He said Suarez’s response is “not where I expect people running for president to say when asked about the ongoing genocide in China.”
Hewitt, a conservative host who served in the Reagan administration, has a history of stumping presidential candidates with often basic questions about national security.
In 2015, during Donald Trump's first run for president, he appeared to be confused about who Iranian General Qassem Soleimani was, after Hewitt asked about him.
Later in that interview, Hewitt listed off other prominent Islamist militant leaders, and Trump wasn't able to say he knew who they were.
Earlier this year, entrepreneur and 2024 GOP hopeful Vivek Ramaswamy appeared on Hewitt's show and was asked about the nuclear triad, the three-pronged system with which the U.S. can launch nuclear weapons. Ramaswamy admitted he was "not familiar with that."