What, you thought checking into rehab would slow down Dennis Rodman? The NBA Hall Of Famer, also known as the unlikely BFF of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un, video-chatted CNN Friday from his rehab facility in New York — and went on the same sort of pseudo-diplomatic rant that saw him checking into rehab in the first place. In Friday's interview, Rodman backtracked on his previous comment that American citizen Kenneth Bae kinda-sorta deserved his sentence of 15 years' manual labor in North Korea; this time, Rodman offered to swap places with Bae. "I'd do that, straight ahead. Take me," he explained. "I would do that."
In the video call with CNN's Chris Cuomo, Rodman graciously offered to take Cuomo with him on his next trip to North Korea. But what does Rodman even do in North Korea? “I don’t go to the camps, I don’t do anything,” Rodman told Cuomo. “I’m not a traitor.”
“I said that from day one,” Rodman continued. “I’m not an ambassador. I’m not a diplomat.”
Earlier this month, Rodman returned from yet another trip to North Korea, where he'd celebrated the birthday of his "friend for life," Kim Jong-un. Rodman had organized an exhibition basketball game between the two countries to celebrate Kim's big day, and reportedly sung "Happy Birthday" to the notorious dictator. Good times, right?
Well, it wasn't all as breezy as it sounds. Pressure for Rodman to do, well, something about the Bae situation has intensified on his last few trips to the Korean dictatorship. Last April, Bae was sentenced to 15 years’ hard labor and imprisonment for “hostility” against the country. North Korea hasn't allowed U.S. ambassadors to come over to negotiate, and so America has had its hands tied.
Oh, except for Dennis Rodman, who is the only American to have ever made friends with Kim in person.
In various interviews, Rodman made his diplomatic position clear. Mostly.
- "I’m not going to North Korea to discuss freeing Kenneth Bae."
- It is not my job to talk about Kenneth Bae. Ask Obama about that, ask Hillary Clinton about that. Ask those assholes.”
- "Kenneth Bae did one thing. If you understand what Kenneth Bae did. Do you understand what he did in this country? No, no, no, you tell me, you tell me. Why is he held captive here in this country, why? … I would love to speak on this."
As Bustle reported:
“I am not going to sit there and go in and say ‘hey guy, you’re doing the wrong thing’,” Rodman explained angrily to Sky News. “That’s not the right thing to do. He’s my friend first. He’s my friend. I don’t give a fuck. I tell the world: he’s my fucking friend; I love him.”
True friendship is without judgment, as Rodman knows. Did Kim threaten to “annihilate” Rodman’s home country with nuclear missiles? Kinda. Did Kim execute his uncle, potentially by feeding him to a pack of half-starved wild dogs? Probs. Has Kim slaughtered scores of his own people for watching foreign films? Apparently. But a real bond between men is beyond that.
Rodman told Cuomo that he'd been drinking before his latest outburst about Bae — the interview took place a day before Rodman left for the birthday trip to North Korea — and admitted that he hadn't really known who Bae was or what he'd done. Following Rodman's return to America, the former basketball legend checked straight into rehab.
"I have sympathy - I don't want anyone in any country or anywhere in the world to be hostage for something maybe they did or did not do," Rodman said in the interview. "I would do anything ... If they said, 'We'll take Dennis Rodman and we'll let Kenneth Bae go', you know what? I'd do that, straight ahead. Take me."