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Former U.S. Rep. Pete Hoekstra, now U.S. ambassador to the Netherlands, refused Wednesday to retract or offer examples to back up his unsubstantiated claims in 2015 that the “Islamic movement” has made some parts of the Netherlands inaccessible.

At his first news conference at The Hague, Dutch reporters pressed Hoekstra about his 2015 comments that Muslims have sown chaos and rendered parts of the Netherlands “no-go zones” where cars and politicians are “being burned.” Hoekstra last month denied making the comments from 2015.

Footage of Wednesday’s news conference shows Hoekstra taking questions from journalists who asked several times if Hoekstra was wrong about cars and politicians being burned. One asked Hoekstra if he would be visiting “our no-go areas.”

“It is not about my personal views anymore. This is about the views and the policies of the United States of America, as directed by this administration,” Hoekstra replied.

The ambassador said he had expressed my regrets and my apology for the comments that I made. And I’m not revisiting the issue,” referring to a Dec. 23 statement on Twitter.

“Yeah, but for what remarks exactly? Please, this is important. For the original remarks? Are politicians being burned in the Netherlands in the past? Is that something you believe? Yes or no?” a reporter asked.

“I’m not revisiting the issue,” repeated Hoekstra, a Republican former chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.

With the help of an aide, he tried to move onto another topic, but other journalists continued to ask similar questions, such as for examples of a Dutch politician who had been burned in recent years.

“This is the Netherlands. You have to answer questions,” a female reporter said.

When asked about the same comments by the Dutch news program Nieuwsuur in December, Hoekstra denied having made the statements, calling it “fake news.”

“I didn’t say that. That is actually an incorrect statement,” he told reporter Wouter Zwart.

But a video of Hoekstra’s appearance at a 2015 conference in Charleston, South Carolina, hosted by the David Horowitz Freedom Center, is available online.

On the panel, Hoekstra of Holland, Michigan, claimed that Muslim extremists were wreaking havoc in the Netherlands as part of a “stealth jihad.”

“The Islamic movement has now gotten to a point where they have put Europe into chaos. Chaos in the Netherlands. There are cars being burned. There are politicians that are being burned,” Hoekstra said at the time. “And, yes, there are no-go zones in the Netherlands.”

The term “no-go zone” is used by anti-Muslim activists and some conservatives to suggest an area where non-Muslims are unwelcome.

Hoekstra issued his statement via Twitter shortly before Christmas, saying he “made certain remarks in 2015 and regret the exchange during the Nieuwsuur interview. Please accept my apology.”

The U.S. Senate confirmed Hoekstra for the Dutch ambassadorship in November. He retired from Congress in 2011 after 18 years and last year co-chaired President Donald Trump’s campaign in Michigan.

Hoekstra was born in the Netherlands, emigrated with his parents to the United States at age 3 and grew up in West Michigan.

mburke@detroitnews.com

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