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11 Jan, 2018 23:11

‘This is the Netherlands, you have to answer questions’: New US envoy grilled by Dutch journalists

The new US ambassador to the Netherlands has already landed in hot water by refusing to answer journalists’ questions at his first press conference. The event went south after the envoy was reminded of his earlier fiery remarks.

His very first press conference as US ambassador to Amsterdam did not go well for Pete Hoekstra, the former US Congressman of Dutch descent. He studiously avoided answering the hard questions of Dutch journalists only to eventually lose control of the situation.

A short video posted on Twitter by Roel Geeraedts, a political reporter at the Dutch RTL Nieuws TV news channel, shows reporters asking Hoekstra why he refuses to answer their questions and insisting that “this is not how this works” in the Netherlands.

The awkward exchange is the result of an earlier gaffe in December 2017 when Hoekstra, at that time newly appointed ambassador but not yet in office, gave an interview to the Dutch Nieuwsuur news.

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He was confronted about his claims that there are ‘no-go zones’ in the Netherlands and that Dutch politicians are set on fire by Islamist mobs. In response, Hoekstra accused the journalist of promoting fake news.

“I did not say that. That is actually an incorrect statement,” he said at that time, adding “we [in the US] would call it fake news.” The problem is he actually did say that.

“Chaos in the Netherlands. There are cars being burned, there are politicians that are being burned,” Hoekstra said at a press conference in the David Horowitz Freedom Center back in 2015. And if that wasn’t enough, just minutes later Hoekstra denied calling the interviewer’s statements “fake.” “I did not call it fake news. I did not use this word today,” he said.

During the ambassador’s first official press conference on January 10, the Dutch journalists apparently decided to get some clarity on the issue. Their efforts, however, were in vain.

In fact, the day after the December interview Hoekstra issued an apology, admitting he “made certain remarks in 2015 and regrets the exchange during the Nieuwsuur interview.” He also said it is “the greatest honor of [his] life to serve as the United States Ambassador to the Netherlands.”

Apparently he thought the matter was closed, insisting he “would not be revisiting the issue” when he was again confronted by journalists. His actions provoked a backlash in the Dutch media.

“Embarrassing performance from controversial ambassador,” De Telegraaf daily said, while the RTL Nieuws called the incident a “very uncomfortable meeting between ambassador and journalists.”