January 31st, 2014
04:24 AM ET

Rodman in Rehab: "I'm Not an Ambassador to North Korea"

Did you catch Chris Cuomo's exclusive with Dennis Rodman in his first interview since entering an alcohol rehabilitation facility two weeks ago?

The former basketball player is probably the American with the most access to the North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, and many have been critical that he has not lobbied for the release of American prisoner Kenneth Bae from a labor camp.

"I'm not an ambassador, and I tried to strive and tell people, just because I know the marshal (Kim), that doesn't mean I know the marshal like that," he said.

Rodman says he's not a diplomat, just a former NBA star fighting addiction and trying to be a better father.

But that hasn't kept him from becoming embroiled, even if unintentionally, in U.S.-North Korea relations.

His apparent chumminess with North Korea's leader has been controversial, as have previous proclamations that the leader is a "nice guy."

Rodman said he simply does not know enough about the allegations of abuse and authoritarianism that Kim is reviled for.

"I keep telling people, I'm not there to be an ambassador to try to figure out why (is Kim) doing all these things? That's not my job," Rodman told Cuomo.

Rodman says he didn't mean to insinuate during an earlier interview this month that he knew why Bae, a Korean-American, was being held in North Korea.

"To this day I still don't know what he did," Rodman said, even offering to take Bae's place if he could.

"I feel for (Bae's family). I feel for them deeply. ... I would do anything literally. This is Dennis Rodman talking. If they (North Korea) said, 'We'll take Dennis Rodman and we'll let Kenenth Bae go,' I'll say, 'You know what? I'll do that. ... Take me.'"

'I drink... because I'm bored'

The North Korea topic was important, but Friday's interview was as much about Rodman's personal struggles with addiction.

"I've always been a party animal," Rodman said.

But he said this is a great time for him to reflect publicly and put himself at peace with a "lot of stuff that has been going on" over the past 18 months.

"I think for me, the reason I drink is because I'm bored," he said.

"Am I an alcoholic? Absolutely," Rodman said.

Asked whether he was drunk during his first interview with Cuomo when Rodman was in North Korea earlier this month, the former NBA star said he drank with his teammates beforehand, but declined to say whether he was drunk.

"It wasn't about me being in the right mind," he said.

This month, the colorful basketball Hall of Famer, who won five NBA titles with the Detroit Pistons and Chicago Bulls, organized a team of former professional basketball stars to go to North Korea for a game that was played on Kim's birthday.

The players were criticized for traveling to the secretive state, a nation accused of human rights abuses. North Korea also has pursued a nuclear program, despite warnings from the United States and other Western powers.

Rodman said his actions in North Korea do not make him a bad person.

"I'm not a traitor," Rodman said. "My whole goal is to make people happy."

During the live interview, the former professional basketball player extended an invitation to take Cuomo to North Korea to meet its leader, and decide for himself what kind of person Kim is.

Fellow player Charles Smith defended the visit as a mission of basketball diplomacy, where sportsmen would share cultural ideas with each other.

While there - in what was his fourth trip to North Korea - Rodman spoke to Cuomo in an at-times heated interview. The sunglasses-wearing Rodman began yelling at the CNN anchor as he defended the team's visit.

"You know, you've got 10 guys here, 10 guys here, that have left their families, they've left their damn families, to help this country in a sports venture. That's 10 guys, all these guys here, do anyone understand that?"

"We do," responded Cuomo. "And we appreciate that and we wish them well with cultural exchange."

"No, no, no, no," Rodman continued. "I don't give a rat's ass what the hell you think. I'm saying to you, look at these guys here, look at them ... they dared to do one thing, they came here."

And Rodman also implied that Bae, held prisoner for 15 months by the regime, was guilty of a crime, but he did not specify what offense.

"Do you understand what he did in this country?" Rodman asked Cuomo, who tried to interject. "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 said, before abruptly switching topic to talk about how his fellow basketball players had left their families behind to come to North Korea for the exhibition game.

Bae, of Lynwood, Washington, was arrested in November 2012 in Rason, along North Korea's northeastern coast. The devout Christian and father of three operated a China-based company specializing in tours of North Korea, according to his family and freekennow.com, a website that friends set up to promote his release.

Rodman later apologized for his remarks about Bae. And his longtime agent, Darren Prince, said his client had fallen victim to stress and drinking.

"He is embarrassed, saddened and remorseful for the anger and hurt his words have caused," Prince said in announcing that Rodman was in rehab.

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soundoff (7 Responses)
  1. quiet as kept

    For real...Was this a serious interview with a person who has been impaired for many years and for Dennis Rodman to get on television and say he just drink because he is bored or he does it socially...I have a problem with that...You don't go to rehab to get social drinking under control...You go to rehab because you have a problem with drinking, period...I love Chris Cuomo...But Chris, you were being too kind to this man!!! Dennis Rodman is a joke as well as these fools that travelled along with him on this trip...Mr. Bae needed to be set free to go home to his family...Dennis is going to put this man in more danger, with him going to visit this monster in Korea...

    February 6, 2014 at 10:28 pm | Reply
  2. patricia

    Are you serious. Why waste our time with this less than sincere dennis . Do you really believe that people are stupid. Chris,building images yours and his make me sick.the guy is lying to you and himself

    January 31, 2014 at 8:51 am | Reply
  3. BENSON

    WHY ARE YOU GIVING THIS GUY AIR TIME? HE IS NOT A NEWS WORTHY PERSON. YOU ARE NOT HELPING HIM TO REHABILITATE. YOU ARE TAKING ADVANTAGE OF A FOOLISH PERSON WHO HAS MENTAL/EMOTIONAL AND DRUG ISSUES.

    January 31, 2014 at 8:22 am | Reply
  4. Cayce

    Well, stop the presses! The only thing more significant to the well-being of our planet than the perils of Justin Bieber is the inane drivel that might drip from the mouth of this complete Basketball Clown. What is this never ending obsession Americans have with stupidity, so much that you will idolize a person whose most prevailing talent is making a fool of himself and anyone who has ever supported him?

    January 31, 2014 at 8:10 am | Reply
  5. LWJR

    Anyone who sees Dennis Rodman as a normal, logical person, should back off. His NBA years witnessed him becoming more and more bizarre, looking for attention. That is the lens to understand him. Why does he crave attention?

    January 31, 2014 at 7:38 am | Reply
  6. Gordon

    Both you and Dennis Rodman would stoke your overwhelming desire for attention,but the fact that you can use your language skills to batter Mr Rodman in the same way that he would batter you on a basketball court serves no newsworthy purpose. You really need to do some sole searching. It can't be that when you started your career in journalism that moments like your "Rodman moment" were your goal. You have done a great job of proving that your TV career is the result of your lineage and not talent based at all.

    January 31, 2014 at 7:24 am | Reply
  7. Roganne LaPenna

    What has kept him from sobriety?
    Answer: Not changing. Changing physically & mentally. Change everything. The same person drinks again.
    Change people, places & things.

    January 31, 2014 at 7:06 am | Reply

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