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Rodman apologizes for comments on U.S. man held in N.Korea

By Eric Talmadge

Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 08:04 a.m. HST, Jan 09, 2014

PYONGYANG, North Korea » Dennis Rodman apologized Thursday (Wednesdayin Hawaii) for comments he made in North Korea about a detained American missionary, saying he had been drinking and was under pressure as he organized a game with former NBA players.

The former basketball star issued the apology through publicist Jules Feiler in an email message to The Associated Press, a day after he sang "Happy Birthday" to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at the start of the friendly game.

Rodman has been slammed for not using his influence with Kim to help free Kenneth Bae, the missionary in poor health who is being confined in North Korea for "anti-state" crimes. In an interview with CNN on Tuesday, Rodman implied Bae was at fault.

"I want to apologize," Rodman said Thursday. "I take full responsibility for my actions. It had been a very stressful day. Some of my teammates were leaving because of pressure from their families and business associates. My dreams of basketball diplomacy was quickly falling apart. I had been drinking. It's not an excuse but by the time the interview happened I was upset. I was overwhelmed. It's not an excuse, it's just the truth."

Rodman said he wanted to apologize first to Bae's family. "I'm very sorry. At this point I should know better than to make political statements. I'm truly sorry."

In the interview, Rodman was asked whether he would raise the issue of Bae during his visit.

"Kenneth Bae did one thing," Rodman replied. "If you understand what Kenneth Bae did — do you understand what he did in this country?"

Asked to explain, Rodman declined to respond.

Bae, a Korean-American Christian missionary and tour operator based in China, has been detained for more than a year. North Korea sees missionary work as a threat to its authoritarian government.

Bae's sister, Terri Chung, welcomed Rodman's apology.

"I think it's good to see him recognize the gravity and the urgency of Ken's plight," she said from her home in Edmonds, Washington. "It's nothing he can make light of or play games with."

"I just want to make sure that everyone — not just Dennis Rodman — everyone knows about Kenneth Bae's plight and how precarious it is," she said.

The U.S. State Department distanced itself from Rodman and said it did not want to "dignify" his activities or comments in Pyongyang by commenting on them. But spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the department was open to speaking with Rodman on his return.

"We have not reached out to him. We've said before, if he wants to reach out to us, we're happy to hear from him and what he has to say," she told reporters.

Rodman dedicated the game to his "best friend" Kim, who along with his wife and other senior officials and their wives watched from a special seating area. The capacity crowd of about 14,000 at the Pyongyang Indoor Stadium clapped loudly as Rodman sang a verse from the birthday song and then bowed deeply to Kim, seated above him in the stands.

Rodman said he was honored to be able to play the game in the North Korean capital and called the event "historic." Some members of the U.S. Congress, the NBA and human rights groups, however, say he has become a public relations tool for North Korea's government.

The government's poor human rights record and its threats to use nuclear weapons against rival South Korea and the United States have kept it a pariah state. Kim shocked the world in December by having his uncle, once considered his mentor, executed after being accused of a litany of crimes including corruption, womanizing, drug abuse and attempting to seize power.

Rodman has refused to address those concerns while continuing to forge a relationship with Kim.

Rodman is the highest-profile American to meet Kim, who inherited power after the death of his father in late 2011. Rodman has said he is not a statesman and instead is seeking only to build cultural connections with the North through basketball that may help improve relations between Pyongyang and Washington.

Along with Rodman, the former NBA players included ex-All Stars Kenny Anderson, Cliff Robinson and Vin Baker. Also on the roster were Craig Hodges, Doug Christie, Charles D. Smith and four streetballers.

Associated Press writer Doug Esser in Seattle, Washington, contributed to this report.

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AhiPoke wrote:
He was a pretty good basketball player. No one ever suggested that he was also intelligent.
on January 8,2014 | 11:37PM
Nevadan wrote:
Why is he wearing sun glasses indoor?
on January 9,2014 | 03:32AM
Mark1959 wrote:
Mr Bae is in North Korea prison.
on January 9,2014 | 05:17AM
Morimoto wrote:
Thanks for repeating what the article just said. Are you always this redundant?
on January 9,2014 | 08:42AM
loquaciousone wrote:
Everyone knows that Dennis is an idiot and anything that comes out of his mouth might be contaminated.
on January 9,2014 | 06:22AM
loquaciousone wrote:
Everyone knows that Dennis is an Idiott and anything that comes out of his mouth is contaminated.
on January 9,2014 | 06:23AM
hon2255 wrote:
Rodman has no credibility. Total numbskull
on January 9,2014 | 06:25AM
LittleEarl_01 wrote:
The US should pull his passport, then let's see what he will do.
on January 9,2014 | 07:50AM
Bdpapa wrote:
So, who won the game?
on January 9,2014 | 08:32AM
loquaciousone wrote:
The North Koreans of course. If they lose everyone on the other team becomes lunch for some hungry dogs.
on January 9,2014 | 08:39AM
mitt_grund wrote:
Couldn't happen to a nicer guy. Kowtowing to Kim and catering to his vanity by badmouthing Bae, a fellow American.. Steak Carpaccio - cuisson préparé à partir de Rodman. But the dogs will probably spit him out. Probably has hepatitis A from all those tattoos.
on January 10,2014 | 05:13AM
DABLACK wrote:
Wonder why the SA prints anything about this creep. Do something to him and he screams "color" !! A poor excuse for an "EX" NBA player.
on January 9,2014 | 08:57AM
hikine wrote:
Rodman can't say anything bad about North Korea while he's actually in there. Kim Jun Un would have him arrested and jailed for treason! He probably didn't want to anger his newly found friend. And why is Rodman being dragged into the political spotlight anyways? He's just a citizen having a good time there!
on January 9,2014 | 01:02PM
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