U.S. Ambassador to the Netherlands Pete Hoekstra struggled on Wednesday in his first press conference with Dutch journalists to explain previous remarks he had made about the Netherlands and the supposed danger brought there by the "Islamic movement".
Dutch reporters confronted Hoekstra about his unsubstantiated claims, in 2015, that "there are no-go zones in the Netherlands" because of Islamist extremism, "cars being burned" and "politicians that are being burned".
Mr Hoekstra is a former Republican congressman from MI who was born in the Netherlands.
Angry Dutch reporters asked him several times whether he still believed there were "no-go areas" in The Netherlands, and to identify which politicians had been burned.
He did not answer and another journalist said: "This is the Netherlands, you have to answer questions". Chaos in the Netherlands, there are cars being burned, there are politicians that are being burned. Hoekstra refused to answer the question, but the brutal interrogation wasn't over.
"I've expressed my regrets and look forward to moving on", ambassador Peter Hoekstra said only hours after presenting his credentials to King Willem-Alexander, adding he would not be "revisiting the issue". He has repeatedly asserted that Europe has "no-go zones".
"The Ambassador made mistakes in 2015, made comments that should not have been made", Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs Steve Goldstein told reporters.
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When last December, the ambassador denied ever making them.
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. Hoekstra later denied using the phrase fake news. Asked by journalists about the controversy, Hoekstra declined to comment on them directly, saying instead: 'This is about the views and the policies of the United States of America, as directed by this administration'.
Hoekstra then backtracked after the video of the exchange went viral.
The remarks came at a conference hosted by the David Horowitz Freedom Center, where Hoekstra argued the "Islamic movement" had plunged Europe into chaos, the Times reported. He said Hoekstra also was expected to visit various Dutch communities over the weekend, including Muslim communities.
In a statement past year, Hoekstra said: "I made certain remarks in 2015 and regret the exchange during the Nieuwsuur interview".
"In the Netherlands you don't get a straight up answer, if you ask straight up questions", he said. "Please accept my apology".