Gary Johnson, the Libertarian presidential candidate, tried to change the subject to marijuana legalization when a reporter pressed him on his tax policy in an interview, published Thursday, that grew increasingly heated.
"Well, I'm an idiot," Johnson said, sarcastically opening the interview with The Guardian's Paul Lewis. "Really, I'm the dumbest guy you've ever met in your life."
UNITED STATES - MARCH 3: Gov. Gary Johnson, former Governor of NM, speaks at the American Conservative Union's CPAC conference at National Harbor in Oxon Hill, Md., on Thursday, March 3, 2016. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
UNITED STATES - FEBRUARY 26: Former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson pretends to have a heart attack on stage while arguing in favor of legalization of marijuana during CPAC in National Harbor, Md., on Feb. 26, 2015. Former Rep. Ann Marie Buerkle, R-N.Y., not pictured, had just argued during their debate that marijuana caused an increased risk of heart attacks. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
ORLANDO, FL - SEPTEMBER 22: Former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson speaks in the Fox News/Google GOP Debate at the Orange County Convention Center on September 22, 2011 in Orlando, Florida. The debate featured the nine Republican candidates two days before the Florida straw poll. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
File-This Nov. 3, 2011 file photo shows former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson addressing the 2011 Drug Policy Alliance conference in Los Angeles. On Tuesday, July 1, 2014 it was announced that Johnson had been named the CEO of a Nevada-based company that hopes to make medical and recreational marijuana products. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes, File)
Gary Johnson, the Libertarian Party candidate for president, addresses an audience of students and the public at Macalester College, Friday, Sept. 21, 2012 in St. Paul, Minn. Johnson, a former two-term New Mexico governor, is on a nationwide college tour as part of his campaign for president. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)
Republican presidential candidates, from left, former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, prepare prior to a debate Thursday, Sept. 22, 2011, in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)
FILE - In this Sept 23, 2011 file-pool photo, former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson speaks in Orlando, Fla. The Libertarian Johnson is running for president a second time after winning more than a million votes in 2012. (AP Photo/Joe Burbank, Pool, File)
Former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson announces his plans to seek the Republican nomination for president in front of the Statehouse Thursday, April 21, 2011 in Concord, N.H. Gov. Johnson says he has the resume needed to lead the country. (AP Photo/Jim Cole)
New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson, shown at the Inn of Loretto, Wednesday, Feb. 3, 1999, in Santa Fe, N.M. Insurance companies that back a ``no pay, no play'' proposal, promoted by Gov. Gary Johnson, say they would save money if uninsured drivers were barred from making big claims. Under the legislation, insurance companies would be required to file new rates taking into account their anticipated savings from the new law in August. (AP Photo/Laura Husar)
Texas Gov. George W. Bush, left, makes a joke about the first time he met New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson, right, as he addresses a crowd at a barbecue June 19, 1998, in support of Johnson's re-election campaign in Albuquerque, N.M. (AP Photo/Jake Schoellkopf)
New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson enters the Roswell Convention Center Thursday, July 3, 1997 surrounded by aliens. The governor and his family visited Roswell to participate in the 50th anniversary celebration of eth Roswell incident.(AP Photo/Susan Sterner)
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After a contentious discussion of Johnson's poll numbers — he's hovering around 5.8% in the RealClearPolitics average — Lewis turned the conversation to the Libertarian nominee's tax policy.
Johnson said that he wanted some "certainty" that taxes wouldn't go up. He launched into a defense of his record of not raising taxes "a penny" as a two-term governor of New Mexico.
"We're not getting elected king or dictator," Johnson said. "If Congress passes tax reduction, tax simplification, I sign on to it. But I also recognize that government picks winners and losers, that crony capitalism is alive and well."
When Lewis said "most of the world's major economists" think Johnson's tax plan wouldn't work, a visibly angry Johnson responded that "he didn't want to argue," and tried to steer the conversation toward marijuana legalization.
"I came out for the legalization of marijuana — let me just use that as an example," Johnson said. "And I will tell you that I had people in my face for years, and years, and years, telling me about how stupid and how idiotic it was that we should allow marijuana to be legal."
"What's that got to do with your tax policy?" Lewis asked.
"It's leadership," Johnson said.
Joe Hunter, the communications director for Johnson's campaign, emailed Business Insider a statement:
"Gov. Johnson is not a wallflower. He has done thousands of interviews, and yes, sometimes they get contentious, especially when questions come with unfair presuppositions. The Fair Tax is but one example. The reporter suggests no "leading" economists agree with it. If it's such a bad idea, why does it have dozens of congressional sponsors and why has it been supported by such fiscal conservatives as Mike Huckabee and Herman Cain? When an interview becomes a debate, it should be no surprise that the gloves come off."