President Trump’s new ambassador to the Netherlands, Peter Hoekstra, got absolutely hammered by reporters during his first press conference with the Dutch press on Wednesday over controversial remarks he made in the past about Muslim violence in their country.
The reporters wanted to know whether Hoekstra still stood behind an inflammatory and unsubstantiated claim he made in 2015 about Islamists turning the Netherlands into some kind of hellscape.
“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 said while speaking on a panel at a conference at the David Horowitz Freedom Center, a far-right think tank, at the time. “And yes, there are no-go zones in the Netherlands.”
At the press conference, the Dutch media relentlessly pushed Hoekstra to say whether he still believes the original remarks he made. Here’s one exchange:
“Do you now reach the conclusion you were wrong when you stated that politicians and cars were being burned? … Was it false?” one reported asked.
“I issued a statement, I expressed my regrets, and my apology for the comments that I made, and I’m not revisiting the issue,” Hoekstra said, and then looked in another direction, in attempt to take another question.
“But for what remarks exactly? No seriously, please, this is important. For the original remarks? Are politicians being burned in the Netherlands in the past? Is that something you believe? Yes or no?”
“I’m not revisiting the issue. I expressed my regrets, and I expressed an apology.”
At another point, a reporter asked Hoekstra, “Any example of a Dutch politician who was burned in recent years?”
Hoekstra responded with an awkward smile and silence, and then looked to answer another question.
But then another reporter chimed in to chide Hoekstra for refusing to answer: “This is the Netherlands, you have to answer questions.”
“Please, this is not how it works,” the first reporter added.
In another exchange, a reporter asked Hoekstra to look at a John Adams quote mounted on a fireplace that states a concern that only “honest and wise men ever rule under this roof.”
Then the reporter asked, “If you’re truly an honest and wise man, could you please take back the remark about burned politicians or name the politician that was burned in the Netherlands?”
Hoekstra simply responded by saying, “Thank you.”
You can watch some of the tense interaction here:
There is no evidence that “no-go zones” actually exist in Europe
Earlier in December, a Dutch reporter confronted Hoekstra about his “no-go zone” remarks. Hoekstra denied making them, accusing the reporter of “fake news.” Hoekstra later apologized for his denial — but he did not apologize for or retract the original claim about Islamists taking over the Netherlands. “I made certain remarks in 2015 and regret the exchange during the Nieuwsuur interview,” he said in a statement.
There’s a popular right-wing narrative about the alleged spread of violent, Islamist-controlled “no-go zones” in cities in Western Europe where even police are afraid to go. It’s used to illustrate the notion that Western Europe — and, by extension, white Christian civilization — is being invaded and corrupted by radical Muslim immigrants.
But while there are high-crime areas in Europe that are predominantly Muslim, there is no evidence that European governments are actually ceding territory to Islamists controlling Muslim-only enclaves.
Since Hoekstra was sworn in as ambassador in December, his inability to handle questions about his past only seems to be making that controversy worse.