The White House is rejecting what Dennis Rodman hoped would be a diplomatic slam dunk.
Press Secretary Jay Carney dismissed the former NBA star’s eyebrow-raising CNN interview Tuesday, during which an infuriated Rodman implied imprisoned American Kenneth Bae, who is being held in North Korea, is guilty.
Rodman, along with a group of former professional basketball players, is currently in North Korea for an exhibition game. He has defended the visit as a “great idea for the world” and has called Kim Jong Un, the country’s erratic dictator, “a friend.”
“I’m not going to dignify that outburst with a response,” Carney said at as his daily press briefing. He repeated the Obama administration’s position that the communist country has the choice to “join the community of nations” or will face further sanctions and isolation “because of its insistence upon using its resources to fund its military program and fund its nuclear ambitions.”
During the CNN interview, host Chris Cuomo asked Rodman if he would speak up for Bae’s family and “say, ‘Let us know why this man is being held?' If you can help him, will you take the opportunity?”
The eccentric hoops star began to raise his voice, responding, “The one thing about politics, Kenneth Bae did one thing…If you understand what Kenneth Bae did. Do you understand what he did? In this country?” Rodman seemed to suggest Bae did something wrong but would not go into detail.
Bae, who was in North Korea as a tourist in 2012, was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor for alleged anti-government crimes. The punishment came amid high tensions between the U.S. and North Korea following Pyongyang’s third nuclear test. The White House has repeatedly urged North Korea to release Bae, a Christian missionary who was living in China and leading tours to North Korea.
Rodman then began to criticize Cuomo for not acknowledging the sacrifices he and his teammates have made.
“You know, you’ve got 10 guys over here, 10 guys here who left their families. They’ve left their damn families to help this country, as in a sports venture,” said Rodman. “…I don’t give a rat’s ass what the hell you think. I’m saying to you, look at these guys here…They dared to do one thing, they came here.”
Rodman continued: “You’re the guy behind the mic right now. We have to go back to American and take the abuse. Do you have to take the abuse that we’re going to take?”
Carney acknowledged that “sports diplomacy can be valuable,” but Rodman’s trip was a private one.
“This is travel that’s private by nature and we do not vet private travel to North Korea,” said Carney. “We have not been contacted by Mr. Rodman about this trip or his prior trip and the government does not vet U.S. citizens’ private travel to North Korea.”
“We remain greatly concerned about Kenneth Bae’s health and continue to urge DPRK authorities to grant him amnesty and immediate release on humanitarian grounds,” Carney added.
Rodman’s trip to North Korea is his fourth and comes on the heels of Kim Jong Un sentencing his uncle to die after he was found guilty of “attempting to overthrow the state.”