The U.S. ambassador to the Netherlands is to meet representatives of Dutch Muslim communities after he refused to explain his claim that the country was plagued by “Muslim no-go zones,” which had escalated into a diplomatic spat.
Dutch-born former Republican Congressman Pete Hoekstra was U.S. President Donald Trump's pick to represent the United States in The Hague, despite his racist allegations.
At a heated news conference at his residence Wednesday, Hoekstra was repeatedly asked whether he still believed there were "no-go areas" in the Netherlands, and to identify which politicians had been burned., he refused to say whether he still stood by his views.
In a clip from a 2015 event, reportedly sponsored by the far-right David Horowitz Freedom Center, Hoekstra appears on a panel discussing the spread of radical Islam.
"The Islamic movement has now gotten to a point where they have put Europe into chaos, chaos in the Netherlands, there are cars being burned, there are politicians that are being burned," he says.
The film caused a stir in the Netherlands last month when during an interview with the NOS public broadcaster, Hoekstra denied ever making the comments, saying it was "fake news."
In a Twitter message on Dec. 23, Hoekstra said: "I made certain remarks in 2015 and regret the exchange during the Nieuwsuur interview. Please accept my apology."
But Hoekstra will not be withdrawn. Instead, he is going to try to explain his previous statements, made on U.S. television in 2015, to the Dutch media and local communities.
Hoekstra “plans over the weekend to be available within many of the communities in the capital, including Muslim communities," Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs Steve Goldstein told reporters.
The State Department said Thursday that the U.S. administration does not stand by these allegations, nor does it believe, as Hoekstra apparently does, in Muslim controlled "no-go zones."
"The Ambassador made mistakes in 2015, made comments that should not have been made," Goldstein said. "He recognizes that, he apologized in December. He is doing an interview tomorrow."
Asked whether the State Department agreed with Hoekstra's comments on the security situation and the place of Muslims in Dutch society, Goldstein said it did not. "Those comments were not the position of the State Department and you will never hear those words from this podium or in any form," he said.
When he was asked why Hoekstra had not, himself, simply withdrawn the allegations, Goldstein said: "I appreciate that PR advice... I share your view by the way."