US Ambassador expected to apologize over false "no-go zones" statement

Pete Hoekstra and Donald Trump, Oct 2016
Pete Hoekstra and Donald Trump, Oct 2016. Photo: @petehoekstra / Twitter

The U.S. State Department distanced itself this week from the factually inaccurate picture the new American Envoy to the Netherlands painted about Islamic fundamentalist rioting in the Netherlands in 2015. At an event that year, Peter Hoekstra declared the existence of areas in the Netherlands where politicians were set on fire and effective "no-go zones" that were too dangerous for authorities

Hoekstra, a far-right wing politician from Michigan, was chosen by U.S. President Donald Trump to be his administration's representative in the Netherlands. Hoekstra was affirmed by the U.S. Senate last month, and he submitted his credentials to Dutch King Willem-Alexander earlier this week after which he was subjected to tough questioning from Dutch reporters wanting to know if Hoekstra would finally roll back his comments or apologize for them.

During a news conference at the State Department’s headquarters in Washington, Undersecretary Steve Goldstein told reporters that Hoekstra has an interview scheduled with a Dutch media outlet Friday, but he didn't name the organization. He “made comments that should not have been made”, Goldstein said, but would not explicitly call them inaccurate. Goldstein only said Hoekstra chose his words poorly.

Hoekstra also refused to answer Dutch reporters' questioning on the matter, something which Goldstein said was improper for any American envoy to do. "I have advised, as I've advised most people, that when reporters are in front of you, just as you are in front of me, that it's always good to answer questions."

The U.S. Ambassador is also likely to make several public appearances in the Netherlands on Saturday and Sunday, Goldstein said. "And he also plans over the weekend to be available within many of the communities in the capital, including Muslim communities," he said. "The department has had conversations with the ambassador. The ambassador wants to get this behind him."

According to newspaper AD, the undersecretary also declared that Hooekstra regretted what had happened, and he referenced to the tweet the new ambassador sent out in December where he apologized for his previous declarations. 

At his inaugural press conference in Den Haag on Wednesday Hoekstra was asked repeatedly to provide evidence for his remarks or retract them. Hoekstra had declined to substantiate the remarks, and he did not clarify the apology he gave in December after making false statements to a reporter who had asked about them, ¨I won´t comment on the matter anymore¨, he announced.

On Thursday,  U.S. reporters questioned Goldstein about the appropriateness of Hoekstra’s ambassadorship in light of his performance at the news conference and additional statements beyond the 2015 conference, according to The Washington Post. “He's been received well by the Dutch government, and we hope that he can be received well by the people of the Netherlands,” Goldstein said.

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