For years, Republican politicians have complained that the press is just mean to them. It’s as if they don’t like the idea of being held to account.
But if they think American journalists are hard on them, they should see how foreign journalists respond to attempts to spew wingnuttery and alternative facts. Trump’s soon-to-be ambassador to the Netherlands recently found that out the hard way. He tried to deny peddling a conspiracy theory in the past–even though he’d been caught on tape doing so.
Former Congressman Pete Hoekstra got an early Christmas present when he was confirmed earlier this month by voice vote as U. S. Ambassador to the Netherlands. Even though he isn’t due to formally take up his post until January, he’s already made himself look foolish.
Wouter Zwart, the U. S. correspondent for Dutch public broadcaster NOS, asked Hoekstra about comments he made in 2015 in which he claimed there are certain neighborhoods that have become so violent that Dutch police are too frightened to set foot in them. Supposedly, these are neighborhoods with significant numbers of Muslim immigrants where barbaric violence is standard operating procedure.
Watch what happened when Zwart confronted Hoekstra with these remarks.
Hoekstra was telling Zwart that he would be working to find ways to combat the terrorist threat in the European Union. When Zwart mentioned Hoekstra’s 2015 comments, Hoekstra said–with a straight face–that he never made those remarks.
“I didn’t say that. That is actually an incorrect statement. We would call that fake news.”
But there’s one problem. Zwart had video of Hoekstra actually making those remarks, and showed it to his viewers. It showed Hoekstra railing about the supposedly dire situation in the Netherlands.
That video came from the 2015 “Restoration Weekend,” hosted by David Horowitz’ Freedom Center. Watch here, if you can stand it.
At around the 10:30 mark, Hoekstra claimed that the Netherlands was a textbook example of the dire situation Europe faces due to an influx of Muslim immigrants.
“Chaos in the Netherlands. There are cars being burned. There are politicians that are being burned. And the history of the Dutch is that they always have consensus. They call it the ‘polder strategy.’ The people who work together because their common enemy–the polders are the land that they reclaimed from the sea. The Dutch have always had consensus, ‘polder politics’ because the people on the polder recognize that their enemy, or their opponent, are not the enemy with different views within, living on the polder. Their common enemy is, they have to work together to confront and defeat the sea every day. So there has always been consensus.”
Hoekstra went on to say that there were “no-go zones in the Netherlands,” as was the case in a number of other EU countries, and it was literally tearing the country apart.
Although it has widely been reported that Zwart showed the video to Hoekstra, that isn’t the case. Zwart told his Twitter followers that he didn’t think it was necessary to show Hoekstra the video, since Hoekstra almost certainly knew the video existed.
2) We did not “live fact check” Hoekstra’s comments on the spot, as was suggested in some reports. It’s tv, we edited the 2015 clips in of course. However, Hoekstra was or should have been aware of the existence of the video, since it has been available online for years….
— Wouter Zwart NOS (@WouterZwart) December 23, 2017
…and journalists (incl myself) have written about them in the past. You can see the whole video here: https://t.co/RA5u8PcrfD
— Wouter Zwart NOS (@WouterZwart) December 23, 2017
Indeed, those comments are a big reason that Hoekstra’s nomination raised a lot of eyebrows in the Netherlands.
Later in the interview, Zwart raised the issue of Hoekstra’s “no-go zones” rant, and recalled that he’d just described it as fake news. Incredibly, Hoekstra said, “I didn’t call that fake news. I didn’t didn’t use the word today.”
Zwart gave his cameraman an incredulous glance. You can hardly blame him. After all, Zwart probably isn’t used to politicians who think they can lie on the air and get away with it.
Now you’re probably wondering why Hoekstra thought he could lie and dissemble his way out of this. It’s probably because he’s not used to doing any heavy lifting. From 1993 to 2011, he represented a heavily Republican stretch of west Michigan, and never faced a reasonably well-financed Democratic challenger. He gave up that seat to run for governor in 2010, but finished second in the GOP primary behind now-Governor Rick Snyder.
Hoekstra has only had to break a sweat in a general election once–and fell flat on his face. In 2012, he ran for Senate against Debbie Stabenow. However, his campaign all but ended when he ran a staggeringly racist ad in which a Chinglish-speaking woman “thanked” Stabenow for allowing China’s economy to grow at American expense. Watch it here.
That ad may have been enough to get Hoekstra over the line in the Republican primary. However, Stabenow crushed him in November.
In marked contrast to the fallout over this ad, Hoekstra had the guts to realize he’d made himself look foolish in his interview with Zwart. On Saturday morning, he tweeted an apology.
Please see my comments regarding recent interview. Thank you. Pete pic.twitter.com/gxQOcZ8Duk
— Pete Hoekstra (@petehoekstra) December 23, 2017
Granted, he only did so after being pilloried. But it’s a start. Apparently Hoekstra learned a hard lesson–European audiences have far less tolerance for dishonesty and wingnuttery from their elected officials.
(featured image courtesy Graham Davis, available under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND license)