A gay rights opponent who once appeared in a campaign advert that was accused of being racist and who has claimed that refugees pose a threat to Europe has been named as Donald Trump’s choice for US ambassador to the .
The nomination of Pete Hoekstra, a former congressman and one of the founders of the conservative , has raised eyebrows in the Netherlands, a bastion of liberal values and the first country in the world to legalise gay marriage.
The Dutch newspaper De Volkskrant observed that Trump had “put a Dutchman in the Netherlands – but it is a Dutchman from the Netherlands of the 50s”.
Hoekstra, who represented Michigan’s 2nd congressional district in the House of Representatives from 1993 to 2011, was born in the Netherlands but left when he was three years old.
His nomination will need to be approved by the Dutch government and confirmed by the US Senate in order for him to take up the post.
Hoekstra has spoken out against gay marriage and as a congressman consistently voted to limit women’s right to abortion. He is also a strident supporter of the death penalty.
He caused a stir when running for the Senate in 2012 when he appeared in a featuring a young Chinese women with a thick accent cycling by some rice fields thanking the US for borrowing heavily from her country.
The Asian & Pacific Islander American Vote group described the advert as “very disturbing” and claimed it had been designed to stir up “anti-Asian sentiment”.
Hoekstra also once claimed there was chaos in the Netherlands due to a “secret jihad” in . “Cars are being set on fire. Politicians are being set on fire,” he said. “Yes, there are no-go zones in the Netherlands.”
He has spoken in recent years at congresses of the anti-Islam American Freedom Alliance, where the far-right Geert Wilders was once a guest.
The Dutch liberal MEP Sophie in ‘t Veld said: “We are looking forward with interest to cooperating with Mr Hoekstra. We will certainly remind him his roots lie in a country that values tolerance, equality and inclusion.
“We are proud of being the first country worldwide to have legislated for same-sex marriage. We are proud to have the lowest abortion rates in the world, and it is safe and legal.
“We are proud in our country that people of immigrant origin can be mayor of a big city or speaker of a parliament. We expect the representative of our friend and ally the United States to fully and wholly respect our values and to show that respect in his all his acts and words.”
When asked in an interview in 2006 with De Volkskrant whether he feared the Netherlands had become a modern-day “Sodom and Gomorrah”, Hoekstra denied it.
“I do not feel like that at all. I’d like to come here,” he said. “It is clear that the Netherlands has made a different choice in a number of areas than the USA. You must respect that as a foreign politician, even though you have a different opinion.”