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March 13, 2013

House of Burgess: Mr. Rodman goes to Pyongyang

Dennis Rodman accidentally becomes a political emissary

On March 3, George Stephanopoulos, host of ABC’s “This Week”, conducted one of the most staggering interviews I’ve ever seen. The subject was former basketball player Dennis Rodman and the occasion was his recent visit to North Korea with Vice Media to host basketball exhibitions and to meet with Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un. Stephanopoulos began the segment with a clip of Col. Stephen Ganyard, former assistant secretary of state, explaining the gravity of the situation.

“There is nobody at the CIA who could tell you more personally about Kim Jong-un than Dennis Rodman,” said Ganyard, “and that in itself is scary.”

For the interview, Rodman decided to don a blue baseball hat, bug-eyed black sunglasses, a flowing scarf around his neck and a suit jacket completely covered in a collage of images of hundred dollar bills. On top of that, he affected some sort of unidentifiable accent. I have to hand it to Stephanopoulos, though. He kept his composure much better than many other interviewers might have. He obviously understood what was on the line and wasn’t about to let Rodman’s Rodman-ness deter him from getting the story. A snippet of the transcript:

RODMAN: [Kim Jong-un] loves power. He loves control. Because others, you know, dad and stuff like that, but he just, he’s a great guy. He’s just a great guy. If you sit down and talk to him, you know, perception is perceiving how things work.

STEPHANOPOULOS: A great guy who puts 200,000 people in prison camps?

RODMAN: Well, you know, guess what, it’s amazing how we do the same thing here.

STEPHANOPOULOS: We have prison camps here in the United States?

RODMAN: We don’t have prison camps, guess what, this is all politics, right? This is all politics, right? And the one thing, he don’t want to do that. He don’t want to do that. But you know what, it’s more like it -- I’m not like a diplomat, I don’t want to do that.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But it sounds like you’re apologizing for him.

RODMAN: No, I’m not apologizing for him. I think the fact that, you know, he’s a good guy to me. Guess what, he’s my friend. Guess what, I don’t condone what he does, but as far as a person to person, he’s my friend. But as far as what he does, you deal with it.

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