Hours after President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un met for the first time, former NBA star Dennis Rodman seemed to cast himself as a man whose efforts to “bring peace between the two countries” was finally starting to pay off.
Rodman said, though, that he’s not seeking credit for getting the two leaders together. The retired basketball player has made multiple trips to North Korea since 2013.
“If Trump wants the credit, he can take all the credit. He can have it all. I just want them to talk,” Rodman said on “Good Morning America,” where he appeared for an interview wearing dark sunglasses, a “Make America Great Again” hat and a T-shirt promoting a cryptocurrency company that sponsored his trips to Singapore and North Korea.
Rodman had positioned himself as the unofficial U.S. ambassador to North Korea, describing his multiple trips to the isolated Asian nation as “basketball diplomacy.” Last year, he left North Korea wearing an “Ambassador Rodman” T-shirt. The 57-year-old did not have an official role in the diplomatic negotiations between Trump and Kim, though he arrived in Singapore ahead of the summit “to see what’s going on.”
Rodman spoke in glowing terms about Kim, as he has done before, and glossed over the young leader’s troubling human rights record.
“I don’t look at him as a dictator. I look at him as more like a person that really wants to try to blend in with the world,” he told host Michael Strahan.
His usual response when confronted with questions about North Korea’s oppressive regime was that he’s not a politician, but merely a man who likes Kim and seeks peace. In a weepy interview with CNN’s Chris Cuomo before the summit, Rodman called Kim a “good friend” and said he doesn’t think about the politics involved.
“I don’t want to see that. I want to see it go away. … I want to see us get along. Have a handshake, have a smile, have a glass of iced tea. I don’t need to worry about the war stuff. I don’t know anything about that,” he said.
Rodman said he kept going back to North Korea because he “believed” in the country, despite many in the United States doubting and mocking him.
“I said to everybody, I said, ‘The door will open,'” he said.
And as Cuomo tried to squeeze in another question, Rodman unleashed the waterworks, visibly surprising the anchor.
“When I said those things, when I went back home, I got so many death threats … I can’t even go home. I can’t even go home. I had to hide out for 30 days. I can’t even go home, but I kept my head up high, brother. I knew things were going to change. I was the only one. I never had no one to hear me,” Rodman said, as a drop of tear rolls behind his thick sunglasses.
It seems for Rodman, who has praised Trump for agreeing to meet with Kim, the summit was a redeeming moment.
“Today is a great day for everybody … I’m so happy,” Rodman said.
Trump has not said much recently about Rodman, a former contestant for NBC’s “The Celebrity Apprentice,” other than to say he’s “a nice guy” and “a great rebounder,” even though he’s not that tall.
A few years ago, Trump chastised both Kim and Rodman, tweeting in 2013: “The only American who has met with the North Korean man child is Dennis Rodman. Isn’t that frightening and sad?”