State Department official says Hoekstra made mistakes in his statements about Muslim migrants in the Netherlands
US President Donald Trump's new ambassador to the Netherlands, who two years ago said Muslim migrants had sown chaos in the country, cut short questions seeking clarification of those remarks in his first meeting with its media on Wednesday.
Pete Hoekstra, a former Republican congressman for Michigan, was repeatedly asked about the comments made at an event sponsored by the right-wing David Horowitz Freedom Centre.
"The Islamic movement is now gotten to a point where they have put Europe into chaos," Hoekstra had said at the November 2015 gathering, during a recorded panel discussion about migration from Muslim states.
"Chaos in the Netherlands - there are cars being burned. There are politicians that are being burned and, yes, there are no-go zones in the Netherlands."
There are no instances in modern Dutch history of politicians being set alight, and no areas of the country considered no-go zones.
Dutch reporters repeatedly asked him to clarify whether he believed local politicians had been set on fire.
Hoekstra reiterated that he regretted the filmed exchange, which went viral on social media last month, but refused to comment further, angering reporters who were cut off by media officers.
"Please answer the question," the Nieuwsuur reporter said. "This is not how we do things here."
• Repeatedly made "no-go zone" claims
• Repeatedly called refugees "invaders"
• Said Obama could be aiding jihadists on purpose
• Said 15% of Muslims could be jihadists (about 300 million people!)
• And much more!https://t.co/z2LMF0fzqz
— andrew kaczynski (@KFILE) January 9, 2018
A State Department official said on Thursday that Hoekstra made mistakes and feels great remorse for falsely claiming two years ago that Muslim migrants had "burned" politicians and created "no-go zones" in Holland.
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.
Goldstein said Hoekstra would be interviewed by a Dutch media outlet on Friday and was expected to address the issue. He said Hoekstra was also expected to visit various Dutch communities over the weekend, including Muslim communities.
In December, Hoekstra denied making the 2015 remarks, telling the Dutch television programme Nieuwsuur it was "an incorrect statement... fake news". Later, after being played a recording of his comment, he denied that he had called it fake news.
In a 23 December note on Twitter, Hoekstra acknowledged having made the comments in 2015 and said he regretted his exchange with the Dutch news organisation: "I made certain remarks in 2015 and regret the exchange during the Nieuwsuur interview. Please accept my apology," he said.