U.S.-Denmark Relations Are Now in the Hands of a Conspiracy-Loving, Climate-Denying Ex-Actress

By sam.stein@thedailybeast.com (Sam Stein) William.Sommer@thedailybeast.com (Will Sommer)
Photo Illustration by Elizabeth Brockway/The Daily Beast

The United States ambassador tasked with cleaning up bizarrely strained relations with Denmark in the wake of Donald Trump’s failed attempt to buy Greenland is a frequent retweeter of conspiracy theories who once starred in a movie so bad it was parodied on Mystery Science Theater 3000

Carla Sands heads the U.S. mission to the kingdom of Denmark, after having been confirmed to the post in 2017. Up until a few days ago, her time in the country was largely uneventful, save for a few domestic hiccups around the Trump administration’s LGBT policy and a more contentious dispute over Germany’s partnership with Russia on a gas pipeline. 

But that has now changed after President Trump canceled a trip to Denmark and subsequently accused the country’s prime minister of being “nasty” for quickly dismissing his desire to purchase Greenland.

Sands, like much of the rest of the universe, appeared utterly caught off-guard by the cancellation. Just hours earlier, she had tweeted her excitement for the visit. But unlike everyone else, she now finds herself at the vanguard of the diplomatic effort to keep matters calm. One Obama-era diplomat told The Daily Beast that he imagined Sands was scrambling to touch base with Danish leadership officials to try and repair hurt feelings and keep the lines of communication productive and open. 

“This cancellation on such short notice and for the reason that was given, I think, in a way, it makes it a pretty straightforward discussion,” said Gordon Gray, the former ambassador to Tunisia. “I think the problem Ambassador Sands or any ambassador will have is how can a host government take a message from the ambassador, who is in theory the president’s personal representative, with anything other than a grain of salt at this point.”

The State Department didn’t respond to a request for comment. But how Sands performs in this now-delicate role could raise a myriad of questions, from why the U.S. government continues to rely on unseasoned hands in ambassadorial roles to how she ended up in this spot in the first place. 

Sands appears to have spent a fair amount of her time in Denmark focused on domestic politics back home. Since becoming ambassador, she has frequently retweeted bizarre claims on her personal Twitter account, @CarlaHSands. Among them are tweets sharing PragerU posts about how humans were not responsible for global warming because humanity had lived through the Roman Warm Period, the cooler Dark Ages, and then the Medieval Warm period. In June, she retweeted former Hercules actor Kevin Sorbo calling for PragerU to be taught “in ALL schools.” 

Sands was a prolific promoter of the baseless idea that top Democrats were somehow involved in orchestrating former Empire star Jussie Smollett’s Chicago hate-crime hoax. Sands retweeted footage of Fox Business Network host Stuart Varney, with a chyron claiming that state’s attorney Kim Foxx was “doing the bidding of anti-Trumpers” by not punishing Smollett more harshly. Sands also retweeted pictures of Smollett with Michelle and Barack Obama posted by conservative actor James Woods, with Woods’ caption “Questions? Here’s your answer…”

In June, Sands promoted a hoax video from conservative commentator John Cardillo claiming to show black Americans attacking a white Trump supporter. 

“If this isn’t the worst kind of hate crime, what is?” Cardillo wrote. “Beaten for her race and political affiliation.” 

In fact, however, the video first appeared two years ago on Worldstarhiphop, where it’s described as showing a woman getting beaten up for trying “to save her man.” There’s no evidence in the video that the victim is a Trump supporter.

In June, Sands tweeted that the investigation into ties between the Trump campaign and Russia amounted to an “attempted coup d’état.”

“In my lifetime there has never before been an attempted coup d’ état in America,” Sands wrote. “This should never happen in a strong democracy.  I wonder when there will be consequences.”

To an extremely large degree, Sands’ social-media appetite mirrors the man who appointed her. She frequently retweets Breitbart, and Trump favorites like Turning Point USA chief Charlie Kirk and Judicial Watch head Tom Fitton. But it’s rare for a top diplomat to be the one openly spreading conspiracies, even under a private account. 

Like other ambassadors sent to plum spots around the globe, Sands had no notable foreign-policy experience prior to being nominated. She appeared as an actress in more than a dozen episodes of The Bold and the Beautiful and two movies. One of the movies, Deathstalker and the Warriors From Hell, was apparently so bad that it was later parodied on an episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000. Sands’ last screen credit was in 1991, according to IMDB. 

Sands also worked as a chiropractor between 1990 and 1999, having earned her doctor of chiropractic medicine degree from Life Chiropractic College in the Atlanta suburbs—a school that has recently lost accreditation for its failure to graduate a sufficient percentage of students. 

In 1990, she married Fred Sands, a real-estate mogul. And, over time, she became heavily involved in high-end California society. In 2008, she was appointed by then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenager to the California Cultural and Historical Endowment. Public filings list her as a board member of Pepperdine University, the Los Angeles Police Foundation, the Museum of Contemporary Art, and the UCLA School of Arts and Architecture. In 2015, her husband died. Sands became the chairwoman and CEO of his company, Vintage Capital Group LLC. 

According to personal financial-disclosure forms, Sands is worth millions owing to real-estate income derived from that firm. She had, at the time of her confirmation, two mortgages for personal residencies, each valued at somewhere between $5 million and $25 million. 

Well before the Trump administration stacked its ambassador corps with big donors, other presidents were doing the same. Obama infamously tapped Charles Rivkin, a former TV executive who had raised $800,000 for his campaign, to serve as his top man in France. 

Sands appears to have used the same playbook to get her post in Copenhagen. In July 2016, she reportedly hosted a fundraiser for Trump at her Bel Air mansion, “where some 200 donors were asked to contribute between $2,700 and $449,400 each to attend.” In August, she was appointed to the Trump campaign economic team at a time when he was being criticized for having mostly men as his advisers. There were seven women added alongside her and one man: Anthony Scaramucci. 

Sands appears to have been among a group of top donors and GOP bigwigs invited as special guests to the Republican National Convention. She maxed out to Trump’s presidential campaign and gave $250,000 to his Victory Fund. When he was elected, she wrote a $100,000 check to his inaugural committee. 

ProPublica reported that Sands was suggested for the post by Elliott Broidy, a former deputy finance chairman of the Republican National Committee and Trump inaugural fundraising chairman. Months would pass from the inauguration before her nomination was formally made. 

In October, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee held confirmation hearings. They were presided over by Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI), to whom Sands had given $2,000 in his 2016 re-election campaign. The hearing (split between two nominees) was utterly uneventful. Just four senators showed up in total, one of whom—Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA)—took his time to offer advice for Sands rather than pose questions. Both Kaine and Johnson had to duck out of the affair to attend a budget markup. Pressed by Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) on U.S.-Russia relations and a U.S.-EU bilateral trade agreement, Sands pledged to study the issues closely and work to advance the administration’s agenda. 

After roughly 40 minutes, it was done. And in November 2017, she was confirmed by a voice vote in what was described as a blitz of nominees. 

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