WASHINGTON — Basketball star Dennis Rodman on Tuesday defended his controversial visit to North Korea with a team of former NBA players, saying it was a “great idea for the world.”
In an exclusive interview with Chris Cuomo of CNN’s “New Day” from the North Korean capital, Pyongyang, Rodman reacted angrily when pressed on whether the group should have traveled there given recent events in the secretive country.
The trip takes place just weeks after North Korea shocked the world by announcing the purge and execution of Kim’s once-powerful uncle. There are also concerns for the welfare of U.S. citizen Kenneth Bae, who’s been detained there for more than a year.
The other former NBA players are due to take part in a controversial basketball game on the birthday of Kim Jong Un, the country’s young, unpredictable leader. The friendly contest with North Korea’s team is planned for Wednesday, when Kim is believed to turn 31.
Apparently referring to Kim, Rodman said, “I love my friend. This is my friend.”
Asked if he would take the opportunity to ask North Korean leaders about Bae, Rodman suggested the Korean-American had done something wrong but did not say what that was.
Growing angry with Cuomo and jabbing his finger toward the camera for emphasis, Rodman said, “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.
Rep. Rick Larsen, D-Wash., grew upset with Rodman’s comments, saying he should “Stick to basketball.”
“Kenneth Bae and his family have gone through mroe than enough without having to listen to these hurtful statements from somebody who clearly does not know what he is talking about,” Larsen said. Larsen is the Rep. from Kenneth Bae’s district.
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