State Dept distances from Trump Dutch ambassador’s Muslim remarks

State Dept distances from Trump Dutch ambassador’s Muslim remarks
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The State Department distanced itself on Thursday from past anti-Muslim comments made by the Trump administration's ambassador to the Netherlands, insisting that the envoy's remarks did not reflect the position of the agency.

"Those comments were not the position of the State Department, and you will never hear those words from this podium or in any form," Steve Goldstein, the undersecretary of State for public diplomacy, said at a press briefing.

But, when pressed during the briefing on whether the State Department considered Ambassador Pete Hoekstra's past remarks on Muslims in Europe to be inaccurate, Goldstein would not label them as such.

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Hoekstra came under fire this week after comments he made on Dutch television in 2015 resurfaced. In those comments, Hoekstra claimed that an Islamic movement was generating chaos in Europe and that extremists in the Netherlands were burning cars and politicians.

Hoekstra, who was confirmed as the ambassador to the Netherlands in November, faced intense questioning from Dutch reporters on Wednesday, during which he refused to discuss his past comments.

Goldstein said on Thursday that Hoekstra did not adequately answer questions during the session and that he would sit for a long-form interview with a Dutch media outlet on Friday.

"He also plans over the weekend to be available within many of the communities in the capital, including Muslim communities," Goldstein said.

Hoekstra has expressed regret for the comments, offering an apology in a statement released last year.

"I made certain remarks in 2015 and regret the exchange during the Nieuwsuur interview," he said. "Please accept my apology."