Gossip Of The Week: Dennis Rodman's North Korea Meltdown

“I want to apologize… I had been drinking…”

If only all statements to the news media began this way. Yes, it seems Dennis Rodman is finally apologizing for his most recent trip to North Korea, and his subsequent unraveling which followed— the hot topic in this week’s celebrity gossip roundup.

The former NBA star began making headlines on Monday, when he arrived in North Korea accompanied by a dozen old-time basketball players, with plans to put on a game as a “birthday present” for the country’s leader, Kim Jong Un. The gift was supposed to be an exhibition matchup between Dennis’ squad and a team of North Koreans. The question on everybody’s lips was whether Dennis would use his influence on Kim to help free U.S. citizen Kenneth Bae, who has been held captive in the Asian country since 2012.

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The answer came Tuesday. That’s when Dennis went on a tirade against CNN’s Chris Cuomo during a satellite conference, after he was asked about what he planned to do about the imprisoned American. Dennis seemed incapable of explaining himself, angrily stumbling over his words at times. One of his travel companions, Charles D. Smith, later told a reporter that he felt remorse for coming to Pyongyang with Dennis because the event had been overshadowed by politics and tainted by the CNN incident.

Despite the hoopla, the aforementioned game for show actually happened and on Wednesday, Dennis was photographed blowing a kiss to Kim, seated above in the stands. He also sang “Happy Birthday” to the dictator, and then bowed deeply. Kenneth Bae’s sister Terri Chung went on the radio to say she couldn’t believe the b-baller’s comments.

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Apparently, neither could Dennis, who issued a mea culpa the next day. In an e-mail message to the Associated Press through his publicist, the 52 year-old said he was taking full responsibility for his actions and though not an excuse, he blamed Tuesday’s outburst on drinking before the interview. Ending his letter on a very sad note, Dennis said his dreams of “basketball diplomacy” have fallen apart.

Yikes. If you had told me during the ‘90s that someday this 6’8” often-unfiltered rebounding machine would volunteer as a U.S. ambassador of sorts to one of the most dangerous countries in the world, I would not have believed it. By the way, I’m still waiting to hear back from Dennis’ rep about who exactly sponsored the trip and whether Dennis has plans to return to rehab.

Clearly, the power forward has made a fool of himself abroad. We can’t possibly ask the man to be an emissary, or even a functioning athlete when he is so enamored with Kim. It seems to me, the recovering alcoholic is just not politically savvy… or lucid enough apparently. If any good comes out of the spectacle, maybe it will bring more public attention to the fact that one of our very own is still languishing in a labor camp with no timeline on a release.

Here’s to two sobering thoughts…

-- Genevieve Wong

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