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U.S. Ambassador to Netherlands Apologizes After Bizarre ‘Fake News’ Exchange

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The new U.S. ambassador to the Netherlands is apologizing after a bizarre exchange with a Dutch reporter went viral in both countries.

When Pete Hoekstra, a former Congressman from Holland, Mich., was confronted with remarks he made about there being “no-go zones” in the Netherlands, he told journalist Wouter Zwart of news program Nieuwsuur, “I didn’t say that. That is actually an incorrect statement. We would call it fake news.”

Then Zwart played the clip of Hoekstra, a conservative Republican, from a 2015 conference saying, “The Islamic movement has now gotten to the point where they have put Europe in chaos. Chaos in the Netherlands, where there are cars being burned, there are politicians that are being burned.”

He added: “And yes, there are no-go zones in the Netherlands.”

Confronted with his own words, Hoekstra then denied telling the journalist it was “fake news” just moments earlier.

“I didn’t call that fake news,” Hoekstra said. “I didn’t use the words today. I don’t think I did.”

The entire exchange was caught on camera.

The interview, part of a lengthy story on Hoekstra and his new role, went viral on both sides of the Atlantic.


See the interview below – the “fake news” exchange is in English:

On Saturday, Hoekstra tweeted “I made remarks in 2015 and regret the exchange during the Nieuwsuur interview. Please accept my apology.”

Hoekstra was born in the Netherlands, but his family moved to Holland, Mich., when he was young. His appointment to ambassador was met with some disdain in his native country, as some of the former Republican congressman’s conservative ideals — including opposition to same-sex marriage and gay rights — run contrary to what most in the highly progressive country believe.

After his appointment, Dutch newspaper de Volkskrant wrote that Trump “put a Dutchman in the Netherlands — but it is a Dutchman from the Netherlands of the ’50s,” the Washington Post reported.

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Write to Jamie Ducharme at jamie.ducharme@time.com