The Universities Minister was left stuck for words when asked on the BBC's Newsnight show whether he would send his own children to the educational institutions that he was meant to be championing.
Johnson wants to allow certain universities to charge more than £9,000 per year for tuition and to link improvements in teaching quality with fee increases.
There have been instances of private higher education establishments reportedly allowing students to enrol at their colleges for the main purpose of getting their fees.
Addressing the challenges facing the government, Johnson said it is trying to establish "a higher education sector that is genuinely offering great education to people and not miss-selling visas."
O'Brien asked the Oxford graduate: "Would you send your children to one of these colleges?"
After an uncomfortable pause, Johnson said: "Where there is high quality education we should be encouraging people to go to university - it's a life changing experience. It delivers massive benefits."
O'Brien said he wasn't sure whether he actually answered the question.
Neither are we.
The uncomfortable pause did not go unnoticed:
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