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Trump’s Dutch ambassador apologizes for anti-Muslim remarks


Trump’s Dutch ambassador apologizes for anti-Muslim remarks
Trump’s Dutch ambassador apologizes for anti-Muslim remarks

He did what his boss would never do.

Peter Hoekstra, President Trump's beleaguered ambassador to the Netherlands, apologized on Friday for making baseless claims about there being "no-go zones" in Europe because of Muslim immigrants.

"Looking back, I am shocked I said that," Hoekstra, a former Republican congressman from Michigan, told Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf during an interview in The Hague. "It was a wrong statement. It was wrong."

Hoekstra's tenure as ambassador got off to a rocky start earlier this week, as he quickly learned that local journalists would not let him get away with the Islamophobic comments he made during a 2015 conference about terrorism in Europe.

"Chaos in the Netherlands. There are cars being burned. There are politicians that are being burned," Hoekstra said at the time. "With the influx of the Islamic community — and yes, there are no-go zones in the Netherlands. All right? There are no-go zones in France."

During his official first day as ambassador Wednesday, Hoekstra clashed with reporters who demanded that he clarify the remarks.

"If you're truly an honest and wise man, could you please take back the remark about burned politicians or name the politician that was burned in the Netherlands?" a journalist asked.

Hoekstra kept mum.

"This is the Netherlands, you have to answer questions," a reporter fired, as a stone-faced Hoekstra refrained from answering questions.

On Friday, Hoekstra said that he "mixed up countries."

"I was wrong," he told De Telegraaf. "I can't recall how that could happen. I know: I was wrong."

Hoekstra is an ex-Republican congressman from Michigan.

(Carlos Osorio/AP)

But Hoekstra still wouldn't clarify which country he was referring to.

It was not clear if Hoekstra's apology was meant to cover other instances in which he has made similar claims about "no-go zones" in Europe — a dubious conspiracy theory often trumpeted by right-wing media outlets. In addition to his conference comments, Hoekstra once inaccurately speculated that some 15% of the world's Muslims are radical militants.

After his combative back-and-forth with reporters, the U.S. State Department issued a statement rebuking Hoekstra's "no-go zones" remarks, calling them "mistakes."

While Hoekstra apologized in The Hague, President Trump came out swinging against damning reports that he used the word "shithole" during a heated Oval Office meeting about Caribbean and African immigrants.

"Never said anything derogatory," Trump tweeted, adding that his alleged immigrant attack was "made up by Dems."

But some members of Trump's own party refuted his denial.

GOP Sen. Tim Scott said his fellow South Carolina Sen. Lindsay Graham, who attended the Oval Office sit-down, confirmed to him that reports about Trump's immigrant bashing were "basically accurate."

Jeff Flake, Republican of Arizona, had harsher words for Trump.

"The words used by the President, as related to me directly following the meeting by those in attendance, were not 'tough,' they were abhorrent and repulsive," Flake tweeted.

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