PYONGYANG, North Korea (AP) — Dennis Rodman apologized Thursday 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, said his family couldn’t believe what Rodman had said.