Former Michigan congressman Pete Hoekstra, the new U.S. ambassador to the Netherlands, has quickly emerged as an international embarrassment to the U.S., the Trump administration, and the state of Michigan.
When grilled by Dutch reporters on Wednesday about spreading bogus information regarding Muslims rioting in the country and killing politicians, Hoekstra stumbled as he five times failed to respond.
“This is the Netherlands — you have to answer questions,” one agitated reporter said.
Of course, this mess comes one month after a Dutch TV reporter button-holed Hoekstra and asked him about his false claims that the Netherlands has “no-go zones” where Muslim thugs terrorize neighborhoods. When the envoy said those remarks were “fake news,” the reporter offered to show him videotape of his comments, which prompted a flustered Hoekstra moments later to claim that he never called it fake news.
Yet, the story doesn’t end here. New reports indicate that the former lawmaker from west Michigan has a several-year history of spewing Islamophobic conspiracy theories.
Hoekstra was President Donald Trump’s choice for the ambassadorship, and he was confirmed by the Senate in November.
Following the widely publicized December incident, Wednesday’s jolting press conference received news coverage in Europe and beyond, including the U.S.
Haaretz, one of the leading newspapers in Israel, reported that Hoekstra offered no evidence that Muslim migrants had sown chaos in the country. The paper added this for context: “Dutch-U.S. political and military ties go back four centuries and American officials rarely face hostility from Dutch media.”
What initially sparked the controversy was video of Hoekstra at a 2015 conference sponsored by an ultraconservative group where he said this: “There are cars being burned. There are politicians that are being burned. And yes, there are no-go zones in the Netherlands.”
CNN reported earlier this week that starting in 2014 Hoekstra made claims about no-go zones in European cities and speculated as much as 15 percent of Muslims worldwide are extremists, a number that would equate to 270 million people. He also promoted conspiracy theories asserting longtime Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin, a Kalamazoo, Mich. native, had connections to the Muslim Brotherhood and that President Barack Obama purposely allowed radical Islam to proliferate.
Hoekstra was also a frequent guest on a radio program hosted by controversial conservative Frank Gaffney, an anti-Muslim conspiracy theorist based in Washington who believes Sharia law is spreading across America and worldwide.
Born in the Netherlands, Hoekstra served in Congress from 1993-2001 and held the powerful post of House Intelligence Committee chairman for several years.
Complaints of Hoekstra’s perceived bigoted views first gained national attention when, as a U.S. Senate candidate in 2012, he aired a TV campaign ad on Super Bowl Sunday that was widely viewed as a racist portrayal of the Chinese. Hoekstra went on to win the Michigan Republican primary later that year but lost the November general election to incumbent Sen. Debbie Stabenow by landslide proportions.
Two years earlier, Hoekstra had fallen short by 10 points in the gubernatorial Republican primary to Rick Snyder, who is completing his 8-year reign as governor.
Given Hoekstra’s embarrassing moments of late as ambassador, one Michigan political commentator, noting the distaste his fellow liberals express for Snyder, snarkily said it appears that, nonetheless, Michigan may have “dodged a bullet” in that 2010 primary.