During his time in the U.S. House of Representatives, Michigan Republican Pete Hoekstra earned a reputation for xenophobia and racism, for attempting to capitalize on terrorist attacks to advance his political career, and for spreading false information.
Nearly seven years since he vacated his House seat, little has changed. A month ago, Hoekstra was confirmed by the U.S. Senate, on a voice vote, to be Donald Trump’s Ambassador to the Netherlands, his birthplace. Already, he has been caught in multiple lies by a Dutch journalist.
At a 2015 conference hosted by the pro-Islamaphobia David Horowitz Freedom Center, Hoekstra made false claims that some parts of the Netherlands were so dominated by Muslim extremists that non-Muslims could not even safely enter those communities — “no-go zones” — and that these extremists were actually setting fire to politicians. Many Dutch citizens have expressed concern about having a U.S. Ambassador who spread such completely false Islamaphobic conspiracy theories.
Enter Wouter Zwart, a reporter for the Dutch television news show Nieuwsuur. In an interview broadcast on Thursday, Zwart asked Hoekstra about his previous statements: “Speaking of threat, at one point you mentioned in a debate that there are ‘no-go zones’ in the Netherlands and that cars and politicians are being set on fire.”
Hoekstra then denied having ever made such comments. “I didn’t say that. That is actually an incorrect statement. We could call that ‘fake news.’ … it’s not what I said.”
Niuwsuur then played the video of Hoekstra making the exact comments he had just denied saying.
@Nieuwsuur to new US ambassador: "You mentioned [..] that there are no go-zones in the Netherlands and that cars and politicians are set on fire."
Pete Hoekstra: "I didn't say that. That's actually an incorrect statement [..] fake news."
Hmm, let's have a look at the footage 🤔 pic.twitter.com/vlstN9vhSK
— Christiaan Triebert (@trbrtc) December 21, 2017
Finally, Hoekstra lied again about his comments he’d made to Zwart just moments earlier. “I didn’t call that ‘fake news.’ I didn’t use the words today… I don’t think I did.”
Hoekstra’s boss, however, is unlikely to be too concerned. Trump also came under intense criticism in 2015 for making false claims about “no-go zones” in London and Paris.
UPDATE: On Saturday afternoon, Hoekstra release a statement apologizing for making “certain remarks in 2015” and regretting “the exchange during the Nieuwsuur interview.”
Please see my comments regarding recent interview. Thank you. Pete pic.twitter.com/gxQOcZ8Duk
— Pete Hoekstra (@petehoekstra) December 23, 2017
The ambassador said he looked forward to “the opportunity to learn, to listen, and to move on in the spirit of peace and friendship with the people and the leaders of the Netherlands.” He did not explicitly refute his statement calling the outlet “fake news” nor denying that he used the words “fake news” minutes after using them in the same interview.