The remark had been criticised by the editor of Dutch feminist magazine Opzij, who said an apology was in order. The criticism was shared by Labour MP Mariëtte Hamer and Green Left leader Femke Halsema. She said that the prime minister "should have been kneed in the groin" for his what he said.
When faced with a difficult question, the prime minister refused to answer and resorted to a certain amount of circumlocution to avoid answering. Mr Balkenende refused to say which coalition he thought best suited to handle the economy after the 9 June general elections. When the interviewer, Mariëlle Tweebeke insisted on an answer and tried to stare him out, the prime minister blurted out "You've got such a sweet look on your face". (See at 1:30 in the Dutch-language video below.) He was booed by the audience.
The editor of Opzij, Margriet van der Linden told reporters that Ms Tweebeke was simply doing her work, "and then for god's sake it's the prime minister making a remark like that. It's not funny, it's inappropriate and not fit for a modern society which is always talking about respecting norms and values". The feminist editor claims that Mr Balkenende was trying to throw his interviewer off balance.
Source: Radio Netherlands Worldwide.
I watched the debate live on tv yesterday and cringed so hard when he said that. Ms Tweebeeke gave him the best "if looks could kill" stare, though. I'm glad he apologised, but I wish he had done so in a more general way, like "Sorry I made a sexist remark, that was inappropriate, especially for someone in my position". Now all he really said was "If Ms Tweebeeke feels treated disrespectfully, I will gladly apologise". (I only have a Dutch source for the last part, Google translate at your own risk. ;)