“We did not know it would take this kind of negative spin,” Charles Smith told CNN’s Cris Cuomo in attempting to defend his and Dennis Rodman’s birthday gift to tyrant Kim Jong-un, but suffice it to say that Cuomo didn’t buy that argument, or pretty much any of the bizarre defenses offered for the exhibition trip to North Korea from either former NBA star. When Cuomo kept reminding Rodman of the captivity of Kenneth Bae — the American held without charges by Pyonyang — Rodman exploded and suggested that Bae was guilty of a crime:
“Are you going to take an opportunity, if you get it, to speak up for the family of Kenneth Bae and say, Let us know why this man is being held?’ If you can help them, will you take the opportunity?” Cuomo asked.
“The one thing about politics, Kenneth Bae did one thing. If you understand — if you understand what Kenneth Bae did,” Rodman said with a pause, then added “Do you understand what he did? In this country?”
“What did he do?” Cuomo said. “You tell me.”
“You tell me,” Rodman shouted. “You tell me. Why is he held captive?”
“They haven’t released any charges,” Cuomo said. “They haven’t released any reason.”
“I would love to speak on this,” Rodman said, again waving Smith off.
“Go ahead,” Cuomo urged.
Instead, Rodman went off on Cuomo for the remainder of the interview, screaming at him to recognize the sacrifice being made by his fellow players.
The rest of the interview is below, and it’s amazingly … self-pitying. Both Rodman and Smith seem somehow amazed that people who like to see them play basketball in the Olympics and in Taiwan somehow object when they play basketball on behalf of a bloodthirsty tyrant who just executed his own uncle, and — unmentioned in this interview — have hundreds of thousands of people starving in concentration camps, living as slaves. Both of them keep insisting that Cuomo and other Americans pay homage to their decency, when they are on a PR trip for a horrific regime. Cuomo refuses to accept that as an answer, even from the very beginning of the interview:
Apparently referring to Kim, Rodman said, “I love my friend. This is my friend.” He also pointed out that Kim is only 31 years old.
Rodman, speaking from the North Korean capital, Pyongyang, praised the players who came with him to North Korea, saying others had pulled out of the trip. “It’s amazing how we thrive on negativity,” he said. …
The players were invited by North Korea, Smith said, and are there as a kind of “cultural exchange” and to “put smiles on people’s faces,” not to influence the country’s leaders.
“We’ve been doing these games for 3½ years,” he said. “Outside of what people know of Dennis, you don’t know Dennis. He’s got a great heart, his passion is about children and families, that’s why we are here.
“We are here because it’s about doing great will around the world.”
Dennis Halpin at the Weekly Standard calls this a bread-and-circuses tour, comparing Kim to Nero:
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s self-proclaimed “friend for life” Dennis Rodman announced January 4 that he had assembled the promised team of former NBA players to take to Pyongyang. These reportedly include former NBA All-Stars Kenny Anderson, Cliff Robinson, and Vin Baker. Craig Hodges, Doug Christie and Charles D. Smith will round out the American team. They are headed to North Korea to play in an exhibition game against a top North Korean senior national team on January 8, providing a crowd-pleasing circus for Kim Jong-un’s 31st birthday. (Kim is reportedly an ardent basketball fan from his days of studying in Switzerland.)
The bread being brought by Rodman to accompany the circus is allegedly in the form of luxury birthday gifts for the North Korean dictator and his wife. Rodman seems oblivous to North Korea’s near starvation of its people, human rights atrocities, gulags, and nuclear and missile adventurism, and appears equally unconcerned that providing Pyongyang with any luxury goods is a violation of the sanctions imposed by United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolution 2094, adopted on March 7, 2013, and previous resolutions. UNSC resolution 2094 specifies that “prohibited luxury goods are banned for transfer to North Korea, including certain kinds of jewelry and precious stones, yachts, luxury automobiles and racing cars.” (Rodman mentioned to the press after his September visit to North Korea of being entertained on just such a yacht on Kim Jong-un’s pleasure island.)
Rodman is, according to diplomatic sources, bringing several hundred dollars’ worth of Irish Jameson whiskey. This should come as no great surprise since the former backer of Rodman’s Pyongyang adventure, Irish bookmaker Paddy Power, had, according to Rodman, pledged $3.5 million to the project before recently removing its name as an event sponsor due to mounting international criticism. Paddy Power is, however, still reportedly financing the luxury trip to famished North Korea. The involvement of this Irish firm has a special irony, given the occurrence of one of the greatest famines in world history in Ireland in the 19th century.
Other alleged birthday presents for the Young General include European crystal, an Italian suit for him, and Italian clothing, a fur coat, and an English Mulberry handbag for her (Kim’s wife, Ri Sol-ju). The total cost of these birthday gifts is reportedly well over $10,000. Perhaps an official investigation should follow of those who may have violated United Nations sanctions by organizing or funding this event?
I’m sure all of the victims of the Kim dynasty weeps at the slings and arrows suffered by Rodman and Smith on this trip, but then again, it’s clear that Rodman, Smith, and company “don’t give a rat’s ass” what those victims think.