In a strange outburst on CNN, retired NBA player Dennis Rodman defended traveling to North Korea to perform a basketball exhibition for Kim Jong Un’s birthday.
“New Day” host Chris Cuomo spoke with Rodman, who is in Pyongyang with nine former NBA players.
Cuomo asked Rodman why he believes the performance is a good idea, while American Kenneth Bae has been detained there for more than a year.
“It’s a great idea for the world, for the world,” Rodman repeated. “And people always turn down the things I do and it’s weird. It’s like ‘Wow. Really?’ You get Michael Jordan, you get the Lebron [James], stuff like this – they can do all the cool things in the world, but me?”
Rodman said he went to Pyongyang “Because I love my friend,” referring to Kim, and praised the players who came with him.
“We play basketball and that’s what we love to do,” added former NBA star Charles Smith.
“I’m well aware of the good work that you’ve done,” said Cuomo. “But you have to understand, the criticism comes because you are not in Taiwan. You are in North Korea that is ruled by a man who just killed his uncle, who is holding an American, Kenneth Bae, hostage for reasons for reasons we don’t understand and is known as one of the bad actors on the globe at this time – not someone to get a birthday present from NBA talent. Do you understand that?”
Smith deflected the question, insisting “we’re here to do good will” and “we’re not politicians.”
“Charles, I get it, but it’s about where you do it as well,” Cuoma said, adding, “He’s not a friend to the Bae family. He’s not a friend to your country. And you have to understand that, Dennis. You can’t pretend like you don’t get why people are upset about your friend Kim Jong Un.”
“It’s amazing that you’re saying this right now,” Rodman said. “Nine guys, here they believe in what I’m doing.”
“Dennis, let me end on this,” Cuomo said. “You do have a relationship with this man [Kim], you said tit many times … Are you going to take an opportunity if you get it, to speak up for the family of Kenneth Bae and to say ‘Let us know why this man being held’ that this is wrong, that he is sick?”
“Do you understand what he did? In this country?” Rodman asked.
“What did he do?” Cuomo said. “You tell me.”
“You tell me,” Rodman shouted. “You tell me. Why is he held captive?”
“They haven’t released any charges,” Cuomo said. “They haven’t released any reason.”
“I would love to speak on this,” Rodman shouted.
“Go ahead,” Cuomo urged.
“You got ten guys here,” Rodman changed the subject, “Ten guys here that love their families, love their damn families, to help this country is a sports venture. All these guys here. Does anyone understand that?”
“We do and we appreciate that and wish them well –”
“I’m just saying,” Rodman interrupted, “I don’t give a rat’s ass what the hell you think! I’m saying to you look at these guys here, look at them.”
“Dennis, don’t put it on them,” Cuomo said. “Don’t use them as an excuse for your behavior that you’re putting on yourself. You just basically said that Kenneth Bae did something wrong and we don’t even know what the charges are. Don’t use these guys as a shield for you, Dennis.”
Bae, an American tour guide, was arrested in November 2012 and sentenced to 15 years in prison.