Former NBA star Dennis Rodman, whose fame stemmed as much from his on-court talent as it did from his perpetually bizarre antics, said on Sunday that North Korean leader Kim Jung Un is a good guy, albeit a misunderstood one.
And, he added, Kim does not want a war with the United States, despite what politicians and analysts claim. Rather, he wants Obama to just call him up and talk things out.
In an interview with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos, Rodman at times clumsily praised the North Korean leader, saying people in his country, “respected” him in a way Americans don’t understand. Yet at every turn, Stephanopoulos quickly jumped in to dispute Rodman’s claims with reports of North Korea’s poor record on human rights.
“He’s just a great guy,” Rodman said, sparking one such back-and-forth. “If you sit down and talk to him, you know, perception is perceiving how things work.”
“A great guy who puts 200,000 people in prison camps?” Stephanopoulos immediately shot back.
“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,” Rodman answered.
Rodman suggested that Kim is merely misunderstood by the West because they filter his image through his father’s legacy of repression and secrecy. Citing his just-completed trip to the North, where he and Kim caught a basketball game, Rodman said Kim and Obama could find common ground through their love of sports.
“He wants Obama to do one thing: call him,” Rodman said.
As the interview wound down, Rodman, compared Korean prison camps to President Bill Clinton’s affair, prompting another round of cross talk over the cloistered nation’s spotty human rights record. Stephanopoulos finally gave Rodman a hard copy of a report from Human Rights Watch detailing alleged abuses in his new friend’s country, though the Hall of Famer laughed off the exchange with what would be a fitting epitaph for his life.
“Don’t hate me,” he said. “Don’t hate me.”
Watch the whole interview below: