House Foreign Affairs Committee ranking member Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) on Tuesday evening said former NBA star Dennis Rodman's attempt to pal around with North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un is like courting Hitler.
"Bringing American basketball to North Korea — a rogue state which has nuclear weapons, which starves its own people, imprisons them, throws them in jail — bringing American basketball there and sitting down with a dictator like Mr. Kim would be the equivalent of taking Adolf Hitler to lunch," Engel said on the House floor.
Engel said any outreach to Kim helps legitimize him at a time when he is not only hurting his own people, but holding an American citizen. Kenneth Bae was found guilty of "hostile acts" and imprisoned by North Korea in 2012.
"We shouldn't be clicking glasses with him, or playing basketball with this dictator," Engel said. "We should be demanding that an American citizen who committed no crime be released."
Engel and others were reacting to Rodman's apparent defense of North Korea's decision to keep Bae imprisoned, which he gave in an interview with CNN today. Another House Democrat, Rep. Rick Larsen (D-Wash.), responded earlier in the day by saying Rodman should "stick to basketball."
Engel was among the first group of House members to speak on the House floor today, the first day of the second session of the 113th Congress. The House did no legislative work, but instead held a quorum call to start the second session.
Members also approved a resolution naming Ed Cassidy as the Chief Administrative Officer of the House, and other resolutions notifying the Senate and the White House that the House has returned.