US ambassador caught out over 'fake news' jibe

WASHINGTON (AFP) - The new US ambassador to the Netherlands accused an interviewer of peddling "fake news" and disputed comments he made in 2015 about the country being in "chaos" because of Muslims, only to then deny using the "fake news" claim in a bizarre exchange on Dutch television on Friday.

Mr Pete Hoekstra made the blunder while being questioned by a journalist from Dutch broadcaster NOS over remarks made at a 2015 conference.

When challenged by the reporter about comments he made at the 2015 event, in which he referred to "chaos" and "no-go zones" in the Netherlands, Hoekstra responded: "That is actually an incorrect statement - we would call it fake news. I never said that."

But in a clip played from the event, Mr Hoekstra can be heard saying: "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," he added.

When pressed further during the interview, the ambassador then denied accusing his interviewer of "fake news" altogether.

"I didn't call that fake news," Mr Hoekstra said. "I didn't use the words today. I don't think I did." Footage of the exchange, which appeared on Dutch current affairs program Nieuwsuur, has been widely circulated on social media.

NOS interviewer Wouter Zwart later told CNN that Mr Hoekstra said the "no-go zones" comment was intended to refer to "a broader context of European problems with 'those areas.'"

Mr Hoekstra - a Dutch-American and former representative for Michigan - was sworn into his new position as ambassador on December 11.