First, a disclosure: I wrote this story in mid-March before going on a two-week paternity leave.
So it’s possible that another public figure committed an even more memorable video media disaster during my absence. Either way, this month’s disaster deserves special recognition as one of the most bizarre moments in international diplomacy—ever.
It all started when former Chicago Bulls star Dennis Rodman was invited on a “basketball diplomacy” trip to North Korea. It turns out that he and North Korea’s totalitarian leader, Kim Jong Un, became fast friends.
The two of them palled around together for days, attending a sporting event, visiting an aquarium, and sharing drinks. The two of them became the biggest odd couple since Michael Jackson and Lisa Marie Presley. Or Milton Berle and RuPaul. Or Monica and Chandler.
Here’s Rodman’s spectacularly bizarre appearance on ABC’s This Week With George Stephanopoulos following his return:
Ignore, if you can, Rodman’s “dollar bills” jacket, his multiple facial piercings, and his dark sunglasses. Focus instead on what he said about Kim Jong Un:
“I love him. The guy’s awesome…he was so honest.”
“I saw that people respect him and his family.”
“He’s a good guy to me. He’s my friend.”
All that praise, for a man who claims he wants to destroy the United States and is keeping an estimated 200,000 of his citizens in political prison camps. According to Amnesty International, those prisoners are “…forced to work in conditions approaching slavery and are frequently subjected to torture and other cruel, inhumane, and degrading treatment.”
When confronted with that information by a clearly annoyed George Stephanopoulos, Rodman compared Kim Jong Un’s shortcomings as a leader to Bill Clinton’s affair with Monica Lewinsky.
Normally, I’d dismiss Rodman’s antics as a circus sideshow. But when Rodman is granted more access to a North Korean leader than any other American diplomat in years, his actions matter. And, as Stephanopoulos pointed out, Rodman handed Mr. Un an easy propaganda victory.
So I can only wonder what’s next. Charlie Sheen befriending Khaled Sheikh Mohammed? Lindsey Lohan joining Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s cabinet? O.J. Simpson hosting a memorial dinner in honor of Pol Pot?
Mr. Rodman has always known how to grab the media’s attention. But dating Madonna and dyeing his hair is a whole lot different than dating a tyrant whose citizens die at his command.
Are you as disgusted by Rodman’s antics as I am, or do you think this is a sideshow without many consequences? Please leave your thoughts in the comments section below.