WASHINGTON — U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen of Everett on Tuesday urged Dennis Rodman to stick to basketball and butt out of diplomacy, after the ex-NBA star suggested in an interview that a former Lynnwood resident had done something to warrant his imprisonment by North Korea.
Appearing on CNN from Pyongyang, Rodman lashed out when interviewer Chris Cuomo asked if he planned to ask North Korean leaders about releasing Kenneth Bae. Bae, a U.S. citizen and a tour operator, has been imprisoned since November 2012 after being convicted of “hostile acts” against the authoritarian communist country.
“Kenneth Bae did one thing. … If you understand what Kenneth Bae did. Do you understand what he did in this country,” Rodman said. “No, no, no, you tell me, you tell me. Why is he held captive here in this country, why? … I would love to speak on this.”
Larsen, whose district includes Lynnwood, where Bae’s family lives, quickly issued a statement saying Rodman should leave diplomacy to professionals.
“Dennis Rodman should stick to basketball and not cast aspersions on a fellow American who is being held by a foreign nation. Kenneth Bae and his family have gone through more than enough without having to listen to these hurtful statements from somebody who clearly does not know what he is talking about.”
Rodman’s remarks seemed to cause misgiving in at least one ball player who accompanied Rodman to Pyongyang to play in a game Wednesday, believed to be the birthday of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. Kim recently had his uncle executed for betrayal.
Former New York Knicks player Charles D. Smith expressed concerns about backlash from the United States and said the good intentions behind the game are being overshadowed by politics.
Larsen, a Democrat, backed the White House’s renewed call for North Korea to pardon Bae and to release him immediately.
“I pledge my continuing support to Kenneth’s family and will continue working with them and the State Department to ensure his safe return home,” Larsen said.