US ambassador apologizes for 2015 remarks he had called 'fake news'
Posted December 22, 2017 1:53 p.m. EST
(CNN) — The new US Ambassador to the Netherlands is apologizing for "certain remarks" he made in 2015 suggesting that the Netherlands was in chaos because of Muslims.
Ambassador Pete Hoekstra lied twice to a Dutch news crew about his 2015 comments, calling it "fake news." But on Saturday, he admitted that he "made certain remarks in 2015 and regret the exchange during the Nieuwsuur interview," and apologized.
"For the last 17 years I've been passionate about confronting the global threat of terrorism," Hoekstra said in a statement on Twitter. "This has been a long struggle. We still have much to learn."
The apology comes after Hoekstra denied comments he made at the David Horowitz Freedom Center's 2015 Restoration Weekend, blaming what he broadly described as the "Islamist movement" for the chaos, referencing a "stealth jihad."
"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 said then.
When Wouter Zwart of CNN affiliate and Dutch broadcaster NOS asked about those comments in an interview in the US Capitol, Ambassador Hoekstra said he never said them.
"That is actually an incorrect statement; we would call it fake news," the Ambassador responded. "I never said that."
Zwart's report on NOS' Nieuwsuur program then plays the specific portion of Ambassador Hoekstra's 2015 comments. Zwart told CNN he did not play video of the remarks for Hoekstra, saying he "can't imagine he did not know of its existence," because it was widely available online.
"People including Intercept have written about it," Zwart said. "Can't imagine he did not know of its existence."
Zwart told CNN the Ambassador said, "he had always meant the [no go-zones] comments in a broader context of European problems with 'those areas,'" and that "he reiterated to me that he's never associated that with what's going on in the Netherlands."
After an additional discussion on terrorism with the Ambassador, Zwart says he discussed the comments again. His report picks back up with the exchange, with Zwart saying, "You call it fake news. Obviously."
"I didn't call that fake news," the Ambassador interjects. "I didn't use the words today. I didn't think I did."
In the video, Zwart then looks back at the camera, and says he's surprised and confused by those remarks, he confirmed to CNN.
The State Department told CNN they had no comment to make on whether Ambassador Hoekstra stands by his 2015 comments in addition to the exchange with Zwart.