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Dutch reporters confront new U.S. envoy over Islam remarks

THE HAGUE, Netherlands -- The new U.S. ambassador to the Netherlands clashed Wednesday with Dutch reporters on his first official day in the job over controversial comments he made in 2015 in which he said that the "Islamic movement" was creating chaos in Europe and suggested that extremists were burning politicians and cars in the Netherlands.

At a press conference shortly after presenting his credentials to Dutch King Willem-Alexander at a palace in The Hague, Pete Hoekstra was repeatedly asked about the comments he made at a 2015 conference, where he claimed Muslims were creating "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."

The 2015 remarks made headlines again last year when he described his own words to a Dutch reporter as fake news. Hoekstra later denied using the phrase fake news, but a clip including him using the phrase has been recirculated this week on social media.

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In a statement last year, Hoekstra said: "I made certain remarks in 2015 and regret the exchange during the Nieuwsuur interview. Please accept my apology."

Hoekstra said repeatedly on Wednesday that he was "not revisiting" the issue -- but that did not stop Dutch reporters from pressing unsuccessfully for a clarification.

One reporter told him: "This is the Netherlands, you have to answer questions," while another asked if the ambassador could name a politician who had been set on fire in recent years.

Hoekstra, a former Republican congressman from Michigan, was born in the northern Dutch city of Groningen before his family emigrated to the United States. Hoekstra previously served as chair of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and was the ranking Republican on the Committee until 2011.

He told reporters he would work to build on existing strong links between the Netherlands and the United States.