USA envoy erred in comments about Muslims in Netherlands: State Department

US Ambassador to Netherlands Clashes with Dutch Reporters Over Remarks About Muslims

The new USA ambassador to the Netherlands refused on Wednesday to explain his 2015 comments that Muslims had brought chaos to the country "burning cars and politicians", as he took up his post.

In 2015, Hoekstra had referred to "no-go zones" in the Netherlands, wrongly suggesting there were Muslim-ruled enclaves outside the government's control.

Pete Hoekstra, a former Republican congressman for MI, was repeatedly asked about the comments made at an event sponsored by the right-wing David Horowitz Freedom Center.

Pete Hoekstra, whom President Donald Trump nominated last summer, made headlines in December when a Dutch reporter asked him about comments he made at a 2015 conference. "If you are truly an honest and wise man, would you please take back the remark about burned politicians - or name a politician that was burned in the Netherlands?" another journalist questioned.

At least one more journalist fired the question off. Reporters had asked the question at least five times.

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Wednesday's press conference was not Hoekstra's first awkward exchange with a Dutch reporter. "There are politicians that are being burned and, yes, there are no-go zones in the Netherlands".

"Cars being burned, there are politicians that are being burned..."

"This is the Netherlands, you have to answer questions", said another. "This is about the views and the policies of the United States of America, as directed by this administration", Hoekstra replied.

Under Secretary of State Steve Goldstein told a briefing on Thursday the State Department "does not agree" with Hoekstra's 2015 remarks about Muslim migrants in the Netherlands. Later, after being played a recording of his comment, he denied that he had called it fake news.

The reporters wanted to know whether Hoekstra still stood behind an inflammatory and unsubstantiated claim he made in 2015 about Islamists turning the Netherlands into some kind of hellscape.

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There's a popular right-wing narrative about the alleged spread of violent, Islamist-controlled "no-go zones" in cities in Western Europe where even police are afraid to go.

Hoekstra last month denied making the comments, telling a reporter with current affairs program Nieuwsuur they were "an incorrect statement. fake news".

He takes up the post as U.S. envoy left vacant for two years, and as immigration is set to again be a hot-button issue in the Dutch local elections due on March 21.

"Why don't you answer the question?" one journalist called out.

"I made certain remarks in 2015 and regret the exchange during the Nieuwsuur interview", he said in a statement. Hoekstra urged the press to move on from the issue, but to no avail. "Please accept my apology", he said.

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