The HillTube

WH: No response to Rodman's 'outburst'

White House press secretary Jay Carney said Tuesday he would not "dignify" with a response Dennis Rodman's "outburst" in a television interview the same day, while emphasizing that the administration had not vetted the former NBA star's trip to North Korea.

"Mr. Rodman is on a private trip, and our views about North Korea and its failures to meet its obligations have not changed," Carney said.

ADVERTISEMENT
"This is a private trip and our focus when it comes to North Korea is on sharpening the choice that regime faces between further isolation ... or a decision to come in line with its international obligations," he added.

Earlier Tuesday, Rodman erupted during an interview with CNN when anchor Chris Cuomo asked if he would use his visit to press North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to free Kenneth Bae, an American citizen imprisoned by the regime since 2012 who was 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. "I would love to speak on this."

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 the Kim's 31st birthday. Other stars 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. "That's 10 guys, all these guys here, do anyone understand that? Christmas, New Year's ... I don't give a rat's ass what the hell you think."

Carney said he had seen the interview, but had not discussed it with the president.

"I'm not going to dignify that outburst with a response," Carney said.

The White House spokesman did say that it continued to call on the North Korean regime to free Bae over humanitarian concerns over his health. 

And, Carney said, generally "sports diplomacy can be of value and it's something we pursue in many places around the world, including through direct support."

But in this instance, Carney said, the administration had not been 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 dictator's palace.

He then said in an interview with ABC News that the North Korean leader had asked President 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."