We have been following the train wreck following the arrival of our new ambassador, Pete Hoekstra, to the Netherlands. The former Republican congressman was confronted by reporters about a false statement that he made in 2015 when he said “the Islamic movement has now gotten to a point where they have put Europe into chaos. Chaos in the Netherlands, there are cars being burnt, there are politicians that are being burnt. And yes, there are no-go zones in the Netherlands.” When confronted by the reporters that no such chaos occurred, Hoekstra denied making the statement. He insisted “I didn’t say that. That is actually an incorrect statement. We would call it fake news. I never said that … it’s not what I said.” The reporter then played the tape and Hoekstra stumbled with “I didn’t call that fake news. I didn’t use the words today. I don’t think I did.” If Hoekstra thought that that would be the end of it, he was mistaken. This week he held his first press conference and and again refused to retract and apologize for the statement. The reporters reminded Hoekstra that in the Netherlands, reporters actually expect leaders to answer questions and continued to press him. Hoekstra was clearly used to reporters in the states who shrug and move on with questions as evasive responses. The problem is that it does not work in the Netherlands and now Hoekstra has painfully and belatedly apologized.
Notably, the State Department took the unusual step of distancing itself from Hoekstra after he repeatedly refused to apologize and correct the record. Undersecretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs Steve Goldstein stated “The ambassador made mistakes in 2015. Those comments were not the position of the State Department, and you will never hear those words from this podium.”
Hoekstra finally apologized on Friday stating “That was a wrong statement. That was just wrong.” He added “Looking back, I am shocked I said that. It was a wrong statement. It was wrong.” At points however he seemed to be referring to someone else: “That one shocked me personally … because while you know there have been other issues in other countries in Europe, you know that has never been the circumstances here.”