Dutch reporters confront Hoekstra on Islam comments

Pete Hoekstra new U.S. ambassador to the Netherlands gives a statement during a press conference at his residence in The Hague Netherlands Wednesday Jan. 10 2018

The new United States 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.

During his exchange with the reporter in December, Hoekstra-who served as a GOP Congressman for MI from 1993 until 2011-called claims that he'd said there were "no-go zones" in the Netherlands "fake news", before backtracking on his remark soon after.

Hoekstra, who was born in Groningen and moved to the U.S. at the age of two, is a staunch conservative who opposes gay marriage and abortion and is pro the death penalty.

The remarks, which play off an unsupported theory that is popular in right-wing media, have been the subject of multiple inquiries by Dutch reporters, who asked Hoesktra repeatedly to provide evidence for them or retract the remarks during a tense first meeting with him on Wednesday. Another told the former congressman, "This is the Netherlands; you have to answer questions".

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

Hoekstra said Wednesday he didn't want to revisit the issue, according to the AP report.

On Thursday, the State Department said the U.S. administration does not stand by these allegations, nor does it believe as Hoekstra apparently does in Muslim controlled "no-go zones".

"Please, this is not how it works", another reporter said.

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"Chaos in the Netherlands - there are cars being burned".

"Could you please take back the remark about burned politicians or name the politician that was burned in the Netherlands?" another said.

"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. "Yeah, we would call it fake news". "We'd call that fake news".

Hoekstra then backtracked after the video of the exchange went viral.

In a Twitter message on December 23, Hoekstra said: "I made certain remarks in 2015 and regret the exchange during the Nieuwsuur interview". But he did not clarify whether the apology was meant to include the no-go zone comments when asked on Wednesday.

"A lot of Dutch people have seen the press conferences of the White House and seen how some questions are not answered", he said.

Hoekstra said he hoped to begin in-depth briefings with Dutch officials on the U.S. perspectives on issues both countries face, including counter-terrorism and cyber threats.

"Do you now reach the conclusion that you were wrong when you stated that politicians and cars were being burned?" one reporter asked, the Times reported.

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