Former NBA star Dennis Rodman has apologized for controversial comments he made Tuesday over a U.S. missionary imprisoned in North Korea, saying he had been drinking on a stressful day, according to reports.
Rodman is currently on his fourth trip to North Korea, and sang Happy Birthday to leader Kim Jong Un on Wednesday at a basketball game between North Korean players and a group of former NBA players Rodman brought with him.
But before that event, Rodman was asked by CNN if he would use his friendship with the North Korean strongman to seek the release of Kenneth Bae, who was arrested in November of 2012 on charges of allegedly seeking to topple the government.
Rodman appeared to suggest Bae was to blame for his imprisonment, saying “Do you understand what he did in this country? Why is he held captive in this country?” he said. He then declined to respond to questions asking him to clarify what he meant, according to reports.
But now Rodman’s advisers have released a statement attributed to the former basketball player, apologizing for the comments and explaining he had been drinking on a stressful day.
“I want to apologise, I take full responsibility,” said the statement, according to CNN.
Bae, described by the North Korean regime as a Christian evangelist who smuggled inflammatory material into the country, was sentenced to 15 years of hard labour and is reportedly in poor health.
Bae’s sister, Terri Chung, has said her family was outraged by Rodman’s comments, and that he could do a lot of good by using his access to Kim Jung Un to advocate for Bae’s release.
White House spokesman Jay Carney, when asked about Rodman’s comments, told reporters: “I’m not going to dignify that outburst with a response,” noting that Rodman’s trip is a private one and not endorsed by the US government.
“I’m simply going to say that we remain gravely concerned about Kenneth Bae’s health, and continue to urge DPRK authorities to grant his amnesty and immediate release on humanitarian grounds,” said Mr Carney.