Former NBA standout Dennis Rodman, who has cultivated a closer relationship to North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un than any other American in the world, broke down in tears on CNN describing the death threats he claims to have received for advocating peace between Pyongyang and Washington.
Speaking from Singapore, site of an unprecedented summit between President Donald Trump and Kim, to CNN’s Chris Cuomo, Rodman said he was optimistic that Trump would be able to reach out to Kim.
“If Trump goes in there with his heart on the table … it ain’t got to be about war … we are moving into the future. I told people about Kim Jong-un, he is all about the 21st century,” Rodman told Cuomo. “Donald Trump is going to make sure … our hands are always open because, as Americans, we let so many people around the world join us to be happy.”
Rodman, wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat, explained that following several trips to North Korea, he attempted to get then-President Barack Obama to hear the messages Kim Jong-un gave him to bring to the United States.
“I tried to do that with Obama, but Obama didn’t even give me the time of day. I told him ‘I have something to say from North Korea;’ he just brushed me off,” Rodman asserted. “But I kept going back. I said to everybody, ‘the door will open.’”
Rodman then began to cry recalling the ridicule he received for meeting with Kim. “I got so many death threats,” he told Cuomo. “I believe in North Korea – I couldn’t even go home, I had to hide for 30 days.”
“Everybody came at me, and I’m still standing,” he concluded, gathering himself. “It’s a great day for everybody – Tokyo, China … I’m so happy.”
Rodman also recalled a conversation he claims to have had with Kim Jong-un. Rodman promised him that he would bring a group of NBA players to Pyongyang to play a game for Kim’s birthday. When Rodman and the team arrived in Pyongyang, Rodman says Kim told him, “This is the first time someone kept my word to me and my country.”
“He’s more like a big kid, even though he’s small, but he loves to have a good time,” Rodman said of Kim. “This guy wants to be around the world. He wants to come to America, he wants to enjoy his life.”
Rodman confirmed that the Trump White House reached out to him upon his arrival to Singapore to thank him for his role in reaching out to North Korea.
The interview was not the first between Cuomo and Rodman. During Rodman’s 2014 trip to Pyongyang, he appeared as a guest on Cuomo’s morning program and proceeded to insult Christian missionary Kenneth Bae, then a political prisoner in North Korea, for unspecified insults against Kim. Rodman later admitted to being under the influence of alcohol during the interview, while Bae, eventually freed as part of a negotiation with the White House, wrote in his autobiography Not Forgotten that the Rodman interview served to bring global attention to his plight and pressure North Korea to free him.