President Donald Trump’s new US Ambassador to the Netherlands held his first press conference with Dutch media at The Hague on Wednesday, and it was awkward.
Peter Hoekstra was peppered with questions regarding claims he made in 2015 that the “Islamic movement” had brought chaos to the Netherlands – comments he has since denied making.
“Chaos in the Netherlands. There are cars being burned. There are politicians that are being burned … and yes, there are no-go zones in the Netherlands,” said Hoekstra at the David Horowitz Freedom Center’s 2015 Restoration Weekend.
When pressed by Dutch reporters on Wednesday, Hoekstra refused to retract the statement or cite examples to back it up.
“Will you be visiting our ‘no-go’ areas?’” one reporter asked.
“Can you mention any example of a Dutch politician who was burned in recent years?” another reporter added.
After failing to answer, other members of the press corps continued to volley follow-up questions at Hoekstra.
“This is the Netherlands, you have to answer questions,” one reporter told the former Michigan congressman.
At one point in the press conference Hoekstra pointed to his regrets over the comments, and said he was looking forward to “moving on” from the controversy over them.
“It is not about my personal views anymore. This is about the views and the policies of the United States of America as directed by this administration.”
When asked in December about the same comments in an interview with CNN affiliate and Dutch broadcaster NOS in the US Capitol, Hoekstra claimed he had never made them.
“That is actually an incorrect statement; we would call it fake news,” Hoekstra told NOS reporter Wouter Zwart. “I never said that.”
Zwart’s report on NOS’ Nieuwsuur program included the specific portion of Ambassador Hoekstra’s 2015 comments. Zwart told CNN he did not play video of the remarks for Hoekstra, saying he “can’t imagine he did not know of its existence,” because it was widely available online.
The State Department told CNN at the time that they had no comment to make on whether Hoekstra stood by his 2015 comments.
CNN’s Paul Murphy contributed to this report.