Dennis Rodman continues to stun those following his latest venture into the hermetic kingdom of North Korea.
In a widespread televised exchange with CNN's Chris Cuomo, Rodman appears to defend the detainment of Kenneth Bae, a missionary arrested in 2012 and sentenced in 2013 in closed court to 15 years in a North Korean prison, without releasing the official charges.
"The one thing about politics: Kenneth Bae did one thing…" Rodman began, when asked about whether he would bring up the issue with North Korean leadership. "If you understand what Kenneth Bae did ... Do you understand what he did in this country?"
He then gestured to the 10 other former NBA and street basketball players who accompanied him on this latest trip to perform an exhibition game against the North Korean national team.
"You got 10 guys here who have left their damn families to help this country as a sports venture…" Rodman said. He continued to mention that they missed Christmas and New Year's with their families, before descending into a profanity-laced outburst.
Bae's family expressed outrage to CNN Tuesday over Rodman's outburst, blaming the former Chicago Bull for not using his high-profile position to advocate for Bae's release.
"He was in a position to do some good and to help advocate for Kenneth," said Terri Chung, Bae's sister, on the show Anderson Cooper 360. "He refused to do so. But then instead he has chosen to hurl these outrageous accusations against Kenneth. He clearly doesn't know anything about Kenneth, about his case. And so we were appalled by that."
"This isn't some game. This is about a person's life," Chung said.
State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki declined to comment on the incident and Rodman's continued decision to visit North Korea, despite State Department warnings against travel there.
"Mr. Rodman is not there representing the United States," she said. "People should remember that when they look at his comments and hear his comments."
Marie Harf, another State Department spokeswoman, told reporters on Monday that Rodman is correct in his assertions that he does not represent any aspects of the U.S. government.
"We weren't contacted by him and he's not there representing us," she said. "I just said Dennis Rodman is right. Mark this down as a historic day for this podium."
The U.S. government isn't the only organization trying to distance itself from Rodman. The NBA issued a statement Monday that it was not involved in planning this latest trip and would not participate in such a venture without approval from the State Department.
Rodman's "Basketball Diplomacy" trip coincides with the reported birthday of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, believed to have been born Jan. 8, 1983.
An Associated Press correspondent in Pyongyang reports Rodman sang "Happy Birthday" to the dynastic leader, whom he describes as his "best friend," before a crowd of 14,000 in attendance for the exhibition game Wednesday at the Pyongyang Indoor Stadium. Rodman said the event was historic, and said he was honored to be able to play in North Korea.
The visiting roster of American basketball players includes three former All-Stars – Kenny Anderson, Vin Baker and Cliff Robinson – as well as other former players Doug Christie, Craig Hodges, Charles D. Smith and four street basketball players.
This is Rodman's fourth trip to North Korea.
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Corrected on Jan. 8, 2014: A previous version of this article incorrectly identified Kim Jong Un.