- (Photo: Reuters/Jason Lee)
Former NBA player Dennis Rodman expressed his regret over controversial comments he made regarding imprisoned Christian missionary Kenneth Bae in North Korea, blaming them on drinking and stress.
"I want to apologize. I take full responsibility for my actions," Rodman said on Thursday through his publicist Jules Feiler in an email to The Associated Press.
"It had been a very stressful day. Some of my teammates were leaving because of pressure from their families and business associates. My dreams of basketball diplomacy was quickly falling apart. I had been drinking. It's not an excuse but by the time the interview happened I was upset. I was overwhelmed. It's not an excuse, it's just the truth."
Rodman was part of a team of former NBA players who visited the Pacific nation and played in an exhibition game against a North Korean team on Wednesday, joining in the celebrations honoring the birthday of Kim Jong Un, the country's leader.
Rodman seemed agitated in an interview with CNN on Tuesday, however, after he was asked about imprisoned U.S. citizen and Christian missionary Bae, the longest serving American detainee since the Korean War in North Korea.
Suggesting the missionary did something wrong, Rodman said, "Kenneth Bae did one thing. If you understand what Kenneth Bae did. 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? ... I would love to speak on this."
He did not elaborate.
The former basketball player has been criticized for these comments, most notably by Bae's sister, Terri Chung, who accused Rodman of throwing "outrageous accusations" against her brother.
"It's one thing to play games with his own image, but this is not a game, this is a man's life," Chung told Q13 FOX News.
"He has refused to help, that's his choice, but instead he has chosen to make these outrageous accusations that he clearly doesn't know anything about."
Chung has campaigned for Bae's release, who was arrested in November 2012 while leading tours from China into North Korea. He is being held supposedly for plotting against the North Korean government, sentenced to 15 years of hard labor.
"Kenneth's imprisonment for the past 14 months has been a devastating experience for our whole family, and then to hear Dennis Rodman, who has refused to help – and that's his prerogative – then to have him hurl these outrageous accusations at Kenneth is just completely appalling and we were just upset and shocked," Chung added on Fox News' "On the Record" on Wednesday.
In his statement on Thursday, Rodman admitted that he "embarrassed" a lot of people with his comments, and reiterated that he is "very sorry."
"At this point I should know better than to make political statements. I'm truly sorry," the former NBA star added.
The U.S. State Department, which has called for the release of Bae, refused to talk about Rodman's comments, but spokeswoman Jen Psaki indicated that the department is willing to speak with the former basketball player.
"We have not reached out to him. We've said before, if he wants to reach out to us, we're happy to hear from him and what he has to say," Psaki said, according to CNN.
Rodman has visited Kim on several occasions in the past couple of years and has described the dictator as a friend.