Democratic and Republican lawmakers are slamming Dennis Rodman, calling the former basketball star stupid, selfish and irresponsible.
Rodman, who has formed an unusual friendship with North Korea leader Kim Jong Un, is in Pyongyang with other ex-NBA players to play a controversial basketball game.
Policymakers on Capitol Hill are condemning Rodman for the trip.
Asked if he had any advice for Rodman, McCain responded, “Just come home.”
Other members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee also criticized Rodman, who has made four trips to North Korea.
Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) advised Rodman, “Stick to what you know and what you’re good at.”
Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said with a laugh, “Mr. Rodman’s strength was playing for the Chicago Bulls in their championship years. I rely on him more for dunks than diplomacy.”
In a Tuesday interview on CNN from North Korea, Rodman delivered a rambling defense of his actions.
He erupted when anchor Chris Cuomo asked if he would use his visit to press Kim to free Kenneth Bae, an American citizen imprisoned by the regime since 2012 and found guilty of “hostile acts.”
“Do you understand what he did in this country? No, no, no, you tell me; you tell me. Why is he held captive here in this country, why?” Rodman said, sporting sunglasses and holding an unlit cigar. “I would love to speak on this.”
That statement triggered a strong rebuke from Rep. Rick Larsen, a Democrat from Washington state, where the Bae family lives.
In a release, Larsen said, “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.”
“The trip comes at the worst possible time — after Kim Jong-un brutally solidified his grip on power — and with no progress towards denuclearization,” House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-Calif.) told Breitbart News.
Rep. Eliot Engel (N.Y.), the top Democrat on the Foreign Affairs panel, said “it is unthinkable that a few fading celebrities would use such an opportunity to reward [Kim’s] regime.”
Rodman and a team of other former NBA players plan to play in a basketball game against North Korea’s national team on Wednesday, which is believed to be Kim’s 31st birthday.
Other U.S. players in the country include Kenny Anderson, Vin Baker and Charles D. Smith.
“You know, you’ve got 10 guys here, 10 guys here; they’ve left their families; they’ve left their damn families to help this country, as in a sports venture,” Rodman said to CNN. “That’s 10 guys, all these guys here, does anyone understand that? Christmas, New Year’s ... I don’t give a rat’s ass what the hell you think.”
NBA Commissioner David Stern noted the league has not had any role in the trip and suggested the game would be counterproductive.
The Rodman interview came up at the White House briefing on Tuesday. Press secretary Jay Carney said, “I’m not going to dignify that outburst with a response.”
Carney said he had seen the interview but didn’t discuss it with the president.
The White House spokesman did say the administration continued to call on the North Korean regime to free Bae over humanitarian concerns due to his health.
Carney said the administration wasn’t contacted by Rodman before he left for Pyongyang or ahead of a similar trip in 2013.
Rodman traveled to North Korea last year with the Harlem Globetrotters as part of an HBO documentary series. He met Kim at a basketball game and attended a party at the strongman’s palace.
The eccentric celebrity said in an interview with ABC News that the North Korean leader had asked Obama to call him. The White House responded at the time by saying the North Korean regime should focus on improving the lives of its own people rather than hosting “celebrity sporting events.”
Justin Sink contributed.