Former basketball star Charles Smith tried desperately Tuesday to shield Dennis Rodman from any direct line of questioning from CNN's Chris Cuomo on "New Day." Cuomo repeatedly tried to bait Rodman into questions regarding his friendship with the North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un. Rodman along with several other former NBA players are scheduled to play an exhibition game today against the Korean National team in celebration of Un's 31st birthday.
Rodman was doing a good job keeping his cool until the question about an American citizen being held in North Korea became the central theme in the interview. Charles Smith tried to keep the focus on basketball but basketball was the least of Cuomo's concern in the interview. Cuomo asked Rodman whether he would if given a chance, speak to the Korean leader regarding a Korean-American citizen named Kenneth Bae.
The exchange between Rodman and Cuomo was as follows:
"The one thing about politics, Kenneth Bae did one thing. If you understand — if you understand what Kenneth Bae did," Rodman, wearing his trademark dark glasses said. "Do you understand what he did? In this country?"
"What did he do?" Cuomo said. "You tell me."
"You tell me,” Rodman replied. "You tell me. Why is he held captive?"
"They haven't released any charges," Cuomo countered. "They haven't released any reason."
In an interview with CNN's Anderson Cooper, Bae's sister Terri Chung said that Rodman's statements were troubling and outrageous.
His mother, Myunghee Bae, who visited in October, told CNN that her son was a devout Christian who had not understood the system in North Korea. North Korea is officially an atheist state and has said religious activities were among Bae's offenses.
Kenneth Bae is presently being held in a Korean prison for 15 years on charges that he tries to overthrow the government.
American exceptionalism is one of those commodities that seemingly has no boundaries. But to question Dennis Rodman about a prisoner being held in North Korea is akin to Beonce' and Jay Z questioning Castro about a prisoner being held in Guantanimo. The Beonce' and Jay Z trip to Cuba was not sanctioned by the State Department either.
Dennis Rodman was and from all accounts still is a great basketball player. But diplomacy has never been one of his strong suits. Just ask the San Antonio Spurs why they had to part company with the flamboyant player.
If Rodman's going to North Korea was a problem it should have been a problem when he first went there as a part of the Harlem Globetrotters. It was doing that trip that the friendship between he and Un was established. It was basketball then and it's basketball now. To try to turn this into some sort of peace making effort between the two countries is possible but only if the Korean National team is one day invited to play in the United States of America. Of course our exceptionalism wouldn't allow that any more than it would allow Dennis Rodman to buy a Cuban cigar. Not in this country anyway.