In a public display worthy of the strangeness of North Korean propaganda, Dennis Rodman and his team of former NBA all-stars beamed into CNN’s New Day live from Pyongyang. Rodman did not hesitate to explode at host Chris Cuomo for asking about the country’s political situation.
The tension began when Cuomo asked Rodman about Kenneth Bae, an American citizen sentenced to fifteen years in a North Korean labor camp for “hostile acts to bring down the government.” Pyongyang has not given any more specifics about his “crime,” nor addressed his family’s concerns that the eight hours of difficult farm labor per day have severely deteriorated Bae’s health.
“Kenneth Bae did one thing. If you understand what Kenneth Bae did – do you understand what Kenneth Bae did in this country?” an infuriated Rodman asked Cuomo. The CNN host matter-of-factly noted that no one understands “what Kenneth Bae did” because the North Korean government refuses to discuss the charges with American diplomats.
Upon being told that there is no way Cuomo would possibly know what no one but the upper echelons of North Korean government (and apparently Dennis Rodman) know, Rodman demanded answers of Kenneth Bae. “No, you tell me!” he demanded of Cuomo repeatedly, seeming to miss the entire point of Cuomo’s line of questioning.
Meanwhile, the rest of the basketball team sat behind Rodman and before a backdrop of illustrated cherry blossoms.
Rodman addressed them. “You’ve got ten guys here. Ten guys here!” he noted to Cuomo. “They left their damn families to help their countries on a sports venture… do anyone understand that?” He then told Cuomo, “I don’t give a rat’s ass what the hell you think,” but it was somewhat unclear whether that sentiment referred to any specific topic or if Rodman just wanted to make the point in general.
At this point, Rodman was agitated enough that Charles D. Smith stepped in by lightly holding Rodman’s arm in an attempt to calm him down.
It did not work, but at least Rodman then articulated a full idea. “We’re the guys here doing one thing. We have to go back to America and take the abuse. Do you have to take the abuse that we’re gonna take?” While some have expressed concern that Rodman’s trip to North Korea would be a “propaganda win” for that nation, CNN’s interview seems to quell any such concern that the nation will come out of this looking better than before.
Rodman and his team, a motley assortment of former NBA stars who seemingly had little better to do than find some excitement in a Pyongyang basketball game, are in North Korea to celebrate Kim Jong-Un’s birthday. Rodman has made several trips to the country in an attempt to promote what he calls “basketball diplomacy,” and has trained a team of North Korean players to play against the NBA stars this week. Rodman often calls Kim “my friend” and asserted “I love him,” and has yet to say anything critical of the breathtaking array of human rights abuses the North Korean government has committed since the Korean War.
Watch Rodman’s meltdown on CNN below: