The U.S. Ambassador to the Netherlands Peter Hoekstra clashed with Dutch reporters on his first official day on the job. The clash was over comments he made in 2015 when he said Muslims had created chaos throughout Europe and accused them of "burning cars and politicians" in the Netherlands.
Hoekstra was repeatedly asked Wednesday at a news conference in The Hague about the remarks he made at a conference in the United States that was sponsored by the conservative David Horowitz Freedom Center.
"The Islamic movement has now gotten to a point where they have put Europe into chaos," Hoekstra had said during a recorded panel discussion about migration from Muslim countries.
He added: "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."
Hoekstra's comments were made despite the fact that there are no instances in contemporary Dutch history of politicians being set ablaze, and no areas in the country that are deemed no-go zones.
A former Republican congressman from the Midwestern U.S. state of Michigan, Hoekstra told reporters who were pressing him to clarify his remarks that he would not revisit the issue, thereby angering reporters whose questions were cut off by press officers.
Last month, Hoekstra denied making the remarks. He told a reporter with the the Dutch current affairs program Nieuwsuur that they were "an incorrect statement — fake news."
But he apologized for the remarks in a December 23 tweet, saying he "made certain remarks in 2015 and regret the exchange during the Nieuwsuur interview. Please accept my apology."
Hoekstra told reporters Wednesday he would strive to strengthen relations between the U.S. and the Netherlands, from which his family emigrated.
President Donald Trump nominated the former congressman as ambassador to the Netherlands last July. He was confirmed by the Senate in November.