Dennis Rodman's mission of basketball diplomacy came to an abrupt halt on Tuesday. Speaking from North Korea, where he and his team of retired NBA players are scheduled to play an exhibition game, the former NBA star blasted off on CNN anchor Chris Cuomo when the journalist challenged his motives.
Rodman defended his controversial ties to dictator Kim Jong-un and his multiple trips to North Korea. He also took issue with Cuomo’s questions about the timing of the trip, which occurs while Kenneth Bae, a Korean-American who is a U.S. citizen, remains held there without charges.
"Do you understand what he did in this country?" Rodman asked Cuomo. "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." Rodman didn't offer any further explanation.
Bae's family is not amused by Rodman's implication that the imprisonment is their son's fault. Bae, a married father of three and a devout Christian, was in North Korea legally working as a tour operator. He has reportedly suffered a series of health problems during his detention. According to his mother, he did not understand the system of laws in North Korea, which is officially an atheist state.
"[Rodman] was in a position to do some good and to help advocate for Kenneth," said Bae's sister, Terri Chung. "He refused to do so. But then instead he has chosen to hurl these outrageous accusations against Kenneth. He clearly doesn't know anything about Kenneth, about his case. And so we were appalled by that."
She adds, "This isn't some game. This is about a person's life," she said.
Rodman, for his part, claims his trip is "a great idea for the world."
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