Rodman, in trouble over interview, blames drink

Thu Jan 9, 2014 4:57pm EST
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By James Pearson and David Chance

SEOUL (Reuters) - Retired U.S. basketball star Dennis Rodman apologized on Thursday for suggesting that an American jailed by North Korea was himself to blame for landing in prison, adding that he was upset at the time and had been drinking.

Rodman, who calls himself a friend of North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un, caused a furor with his comments on Kenneth Bae, an American missionary imprisoned by Pyongyang. Rodman is visiting North Korea with a group of fellow U.S. basketball players.

"I want to apologize. I take full responsibility for my actions, Rodman said in a statement issued by his American publicist.

"It had been a very stressful day. Some of my teammates were leaving because of pressure from their families and business associates," Rodman said. "My dreams of basketball diplomacy were quickly falling apart. I had been drinking. It's not an excuse but by time the interview happened I was upset. I was overwhelmed."

He added: "I embarrassed a lot of people. I'm very sorry. At this point I should know better than to make political statements. I'm truly sorry."

Rodman's current visit to North Korea, his fourth, has drawn criticism from human rights activists and Bae's family after he appeared to suggest in an interview peppered with obscenities that Bae, rather than the North Korean authorities, was responsible for his incarceration.

Bae's sister, Terri Chung, has said her family was outraged by Rodman's comments and that he should use his access to the North Korean leader to advocate on Bae's behalf, rather than "hurl outrageous accusations."

"It is clear to me, however, that there is nothing diplomatic about his trip," she said in a statement earlier on Thursday. "He is playing games with my brother's life."   Continued...

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un (2nd L) watches a basketball game between former U.S. REUTERS/KCNA