The new U.S. ambassador to the Netherlands has said anti-Muslim comments he made in 2015 were "just wrong," two days after a news conference when he wouldn't say the comments were factually inaccurate.
Pete Hoekstra, a former Republican congressman from Michigan who was appointed to the ambassador position by President Trump, talked in 2015 about the "Islamic movement" being responsible for "no-go zones" and the burning of cars and politicians in the Netherlands:
"Chaos in the Netherlands. There are cars being burned. There are politicians that are being burned. ... With the influx of the Islamic community — and yes, there are no-go zones in the Netherlands."
Hoekstra was speaking at a November 2015 conference organized by the conservative David Horowitz Freedom Center.
But on Friday, he told the Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf, "That one shocked me personally. ... While you know there have been other issues in other countries in Europe, you know that has never been the circumstances here. That was a wrong statement. That was just wrong." The English-language excerpt of Hoekstra's interview was published by Reuters and other news agencies Friday.
According to an excerpt published by The Guardian, Hoekstra said, "I got countries mixed up. I got it wrong, and I don't know how it could have happened."
Hoekstra had previously said he "expressed my regrets and my apology for the comments that I made" but stopped short of saying the claim was factually false.
Hoekstra had an uncomfortable news conference with Dutch reporters on Wednesday after they repeatedly pressed him to clarify or retract the 2015 comments. He said he "expressed my regrets and my apology for the comments that I made. And I'm not revisiting the issue." Hoekstra eventually stopped responding to questions.
As The Two-Way reported Friday, the State Department sought to distance itself from Hoekstra's 2015 comments on Thursday, though it stopped short of calling them wrong:
" 'The State Department does not agree with those statements. That is not the language that we would use,' the State Department's undersecretary for public diplomacy and public affairs, Steve Goldstein, told reporters in Washington on Thursday."