State Dept disavows comments by Pete Hoekstra

Posted at 5:18 PM, Jan 11, 2018
and last updated 2018-01-11 17:18:46-05

WASHINGTON (AP) — The State Department on Thursday disavowed 2015 comments made by the new U.S. ambassador to the Netherlands in which he said that the “Islamic movement” was creating chaos in Europe and suggested extremists were burning Dutch politicians and cars.

Under Secretary of State for Public Affairs Steve Goldstein told reporters that Ambassador Pete Hoekstra’s comments were wrong and don’t reflect the U.S. view of the Netherlands. Hoekstra clashed with journalists at a Wednesday news conference in The Hague and would not retract his 2015 remarks.

“The State Department does not agree with those statements,” Goldstein told reporters. “That is not the language we would use.”

“The ambassador made mistakes in 2015, made comments that should not have been made,” he added. “He recognizes that.”

Goldstein said Hoekstra would give an interview to a Dutch news outlet on Friday to clarify the matter and would tour various Dutch communities this weekend.

“We are hopeful that we can move beyond this,” he said. “He’s excited about the opportunity to be able to help the people of the Netherlands.”

Hoekstra had already apologized for the 2015 comments in December but refused to answer when Dutch journalists sought clarification on Wednesday shortly after he presented his to Dutch King Willem-Alexander. He was asked repeatedly about the comments he made at a 2015 conference, which made headlines last year when he described his own words to a Dutch reporter as “fake news.” Hoekstra later denied using the phrase “fake news.”

In a statement last year, Hoekstra said: “I made certain remarks in 2015 and regret the exchange during the Nieuwsuur interview. Please accept my apology.”

Hoekstra said Wednesday he didn’t want to revisit the issue — but that did not stop Dutch reporters from pressing unsuccessfully for a clarification.

One reporter told him: “This is the Netherlands, you have to answer questions,” while another asked if the ambassador could name a politician who had been set on fire in recent years.

Hoekstra, a former Republican congressman from Michigan, was born in the northern Dutch city of Groningen before his family emigrated to the United States. Hoekstra previously served as chair of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and was the ranking Republican on the Committee until 2011.