The diplomat accuses a Dutch journalist of “fake news.” Then he’s proven wrong on the spot. It’s awkward.
President Trump’s new US ambassador to the Netherlands just got caught in a lie, and tried to use the phrase “fake news” to get out of it. It didn’t go well.
Pete Hoekstra, whom Trump nominated in July and was sworn into office earlier this month, made a Dutch reporter’s head spin on Thursday with a series of denials about controversial remarks he’s made about mythical “no-go zones” in the Netherlands — parts of the country allegedly run by jihadists and hostile to any non-Muslims.
Hoekstra, a Republican and former Michigan congressman known for his xenophobic and Islamophobic rhetoric, was being interviewed on Capitol Hill by a Dutch journalist when this exchange happened:
“You mentioned in a debate that there are no-go zones in the Netherlands and that cars and politicians are being set on fire,” Wouter Zwart, a correspondent for a Dutch television news program Nieuwsuur, says in an interview published Thursday.
“I didn’t say that. That is actually an incorrect statement. We would call it ‘fake news.’ I never said that,” replies Hoekstra.
The journalist then apparently shows Hoekstra a clip of him saying the very thing he’d just denied ever saying.
But here’s the kicker: Hoekstra then denies his denial.
“You called it fake news,” the journalist says.
“I didn’t call that fake news, I didn’t use the words today,” Hoekstra says.
“No?” Zwart asks, incredulously.
“No,” Hoekstra responds. “I don’t think I did…” he adds, with a slight hint of self-doubt.
You can watch the whole exchange here:
@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
No-go zones are not a real threat to Europe
There’s a popular right-wing narrative about the alleged spread of violent, Islamist-controlled “no-go zones” in cities in Western Europe where even police are afraid to go. It’s used to illustrate the notion that Western Europe — and, by extension, white Christian civilization — is being invaded and corrupted by radical Muslim immigrants.
But while there are high-crime areas in Europe that are predominantly Muslim, there is no evidence that European governments are actually ceding territory to Islamists controlling Muslim-only enclaves.
Hoekstra has long peddled this false narrative. The clip the journalist shows him features Hoekstra speaking on a panel at a conference sponsored at the David Horowitz Freedom Center, a far-right think tank, in 2015. And in that clip, Hoekstra is saying exactly what the journalist accused him of:
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.
And yes, there are no-go zones in the Netherlands.
Trump’s nomination of Hoekstra over the summer caused a great deal of controversy in the Dutch press due to his ultra-conservative record on issues like gay rights and immigration.
Hoekstra’s early misstep doesn’t bode well for his time in the Netherlands — it shouldn’t be so easy to tell when a diplomat isn’t telling truth.