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'I Had Been Drinking,' Rodman Says In Apology For Comments

Dennis Rodman in December, during one of his previous visits to North Korea.
David Guttenfelder
Dennis Rodman in December, during one of his previous visits to North Korea.

Saying that "I had been drinking," former NBA player Dennis Rodman has had his publicist issue an apology for the obscenity-laced rant he went on earlier this week during an interview on CNN.

In that combative exchange with the news network's Chris Cuomo, Rodman implied that American citizen Kenneth Bae, who is imprisoned in North Korea, did something to deserve his punishment. Rodman is in North Korea with a group of other former NBA players.

Now, Rodman's publicist has sent a statement to The Associated Press and other news outlets. In it, Rodman is quoted as saying:

"I want to first apologize to Kenneth Bae's family. ...

"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. ...

"At this point, I should know better than to make political statements. I'm truly sorry."

Bae's sister, Terri Chung, has been highly critical of Rodman's earlier comments. "He was in a position to do some good and to help advocate for Kenneth," she told CNN. "He refused to do so. But then instead he has chosen to hurl these outrageous accusations against Kenneth. He clearly doesn't know anything about Kenneth, about his case. And so we were appalled by that."

Rodman's words were potentially much more serious than just the ramblings of a man who now admits he'd been drinking. There's been speculation from some, including former U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Bill Richardson, that Rodman's comments hurt any diplomatic efforts that are underway to win Bae's release. Richardson has been to North Korea on such missions. He warns that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un could use Rodman's earlier remarks as propaganda when justifying Bae's punishment.

Last May, Bae was sentenced to 15 years in a labor camp for allegedly attempting to overthrow the North Korean government. Now 45, he had been living in China for seven years before being arrested in late 2012, the AP says. Bae "ran a tour business and led 18 trips to North Korea," his sister told the wire service. It adds that:

" 'He worked there legally. He had official permission to be there. He had business relations,' [Chung] said.

"Nothing was amiss until his arrest, apparently related to his religion, she said.

" 'He is a man of faith, and I'm afraid his Christian faith has been deemed hostile against the state,' Chung said."

Rodman has now made several trips to North Korea. We've posted before about his behavior and comments regarding that country and its leader:

-- Sing Along, Now: Rodman's 'Happy Birthday' For Kim Jong Un

-- Dennis Rodman Defends North Korean 'Basketball Diplomacy'

-- Dennis Rodman: North Korea Is 'Not That Bad'

-- 'I Love Him,' Dennis Rodman Says Of North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un

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Mark Memmott is NPR's supervising senior editor for Standards & Practices. In that role, he's a resource for NPR's journalists – helping them raise the right questions as they do their work and uphold the organization's standards.