By Jonathan Kaminsky
NEW ORLEANS (Reuters) - Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, a potential 2016 presidential candidate, was criticized on Wednesday by his state's two largest newspapers over contentious remarks referring to Muslim-controlled "no-go zone" areas in European cities.
Jindal, a Republican who is courting evangelical Christians and other conservatives ahead of a possible run for the White House, defended his comments about neighborhoods in Europe he said were under the effective control of "non-assimilationist Muslims" as accurate.
"You can call them whatever term you want but absolutely there are neighborhoods where we have communities of people that don't want to integrate, don't want to assimilate," he said in a Wednesday interview on Fox News. "They're actually going in there to colonize, to overtake the culture. That's what's going to happen in America if we're not careful."
Similar "no-go zone" remarks made this month by a commentator on Fox News led to a retraction from the network along with ridicule from the British prime minister and a lawsuit threat from Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo.
Jindal, who cannot run for another term as governor when his current term expires in 2015, said he would not bow to pressure from those seeking to minimize what he deemed a serious threat.
His representatives, asked about the issue, gave no further comment, but his initial remarks drew stark criticism from two Louisiana newspapers.
"We wonder if this kind of fact-famished scandal-mongering is going to be confused with leadership in next year's presidential primaries," the Baton Rouge Advocate newspaper wrote in an editorial.
Similarly, the New Orleans Times-Picayune newspaper wrote in an editorial that Jindal appeared unconcerned about the distinction between good and bad attention.
"This is apparently what amounts to his foreign policy platform," the paper wrote in an editorial.
In Louisiana, which faces a $1.4 billion budget shortfall due in part to falling oil prices, some view Jindal's recent comments, along with his frequent speaking engagements outside the state, as an unwelcome distraction, said G. Pearson Cross, a political scientist at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.
"Louisianans by and large have had it with Governor Jindal and wish that he would stay home and pay attention to state business," Cross said.
(Reporting by Jonathan Kaminsky; Editing by Sandra Maler)