In an appropriately bizarre final chapter to one of the strangest sports-related stories in recent memory, a noticeably unfocused Dennis Rodman recounted his trip to North Korea and his dealings with dictator Kim Jong-un to George Stephanopoulos of ABC News.
Rodman and members of Vice Media ventured to North Korea to meet, enjoy meals and watch exhibition basketball with the famine-ridden country's leader. The entire trip was part of a documentary being put together for HBO.
Jason Mojica of Vice aptly captured the surreal nature of the experience:
I spent the morning visiting Kim Jong Il's body with Dennis Rodman & the Harlem Globetrotters. #NBD— Jason Mojica (@elmodernisto) February 28, 2013
Constantly repeating himself and speaking with a slur that made him virtually impossible to understand, Rodman asserted his friendship with the North Korean leader and became extremely uncomfortable when confronted by Stephanopoulos with a myriad of facts about Kim Jong-un's international reputation.
"He's a great guy," Rodman said of his new friend.
Another of Mojica's tweets might help explain the surprising goodwill Rodman felt:
Um... so Kim Jong Un just got the #VICEonHBO crew wasted... no really, that happened.— Jason Mojica (@elmodernisto) February 28, 2013
Faced with revelations that Kim runs prison camps and is responsible for countless human rights violations, Rodman retreated into a mantra that the military leader is a human being first and foremost, is still only 28, the North Korean people respect him and his family, and that he acted as a friend during the American crew's visit.
The interview wasn't entirely comprised of Rodman's unsuccessful attempts to dig his way out of an ethical hole, though. He also mentioned that there might be a path to diplomacy through basketball, citing the shared love of the sport between President Barack Obama and Kim Jong-un.
Apparently, there's a soft spot among North Korean leaders—and the Kim Dynasty, in particular—for the Chicago Bulls. Per Brian Stelter of the The New York Times:
The Kim dynasty’s love for the sport, and for the Chicago Bulls in particular, was evident on the Vice co-founder Shane Smith’s two previous trips to the country. In a telephone interview, Mr. Smith recalled that when the Bulls would come up in conversation with North Korean handlers, “their eyes would light up.”
Rodman mentioned that his new friend asked him to relay a message to President Obama. Said Rodman: "He want Obama to do one thing: Call him."
Overall, Rodman was woefully out of his depth in a serious interview setting and didn't appear to be in any condition to conduct a discourse on international relations.
"I'm not a diplomat," Rodman admitted.
You don't say, Dennis.
Really, the entire episode was a little sad. Rodman didn't seem to have it together, and even if he had, it's hard to see him standing up under the legitimate questions he faced. Maybe his visit to North Korea really will serve as some kind of bridge to repairing some seriously strained relations.
More likely, it'll just be another regrettable entry on Rodman's increasingly strange list of publicity mistakes.
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