Media having a ball with Dennis Rodman’s ‘Basketball Diplomacy’

Sunday March 3, 2013: ABC's "This Week" host George Stephanopoulos, left, with former NBA star Dennis Rodman at the network's New York studios.

Sunday March 3, 2013: ABC's "This Week" host George Stephanopoulos, left, with former NBA star Dennis Rodman at the network's New York studios.  (AP/ABC Television)

Put together a celebrity athlete and a lunatic dictator and it’s a sure shot you’ll bring out the worst in people – especially in journalists. Former Chicago Bulls star Dennis Rodman went to North Korea as part of “basketball diplomacy” and met with the latest deadly maniac to run that poor, abused nation, dear leader Kim Jung Un. The fallout from this visit had Kim announcing plans to end a 60-year cease-fire that halted the Korean War.

Naturally, many in the media had a ball, with only a few shows mentioning the monstrous, murderous nature of the North Korean regime. Journos got into the game in the most ridiculous ways possible – talking about Rodman’s past misdeeds, not North Korea’s. ABC’s Claire Shipman led the news media team with stupid points, calling the dictator “quirky” and a “worldwide bad boy,” who had made a recent “provocative nuclear test.” She actually called it a “bromance” and an “unlikely courtship.” I’m sure starving North Koreans enjoyed her pun.

It was an embarrassing opening quarter for Team ABC. Their top player was “This Week” host George Stephanopoulos, who devoted nearly eight minutes on the clock to Rodman’s rambling, slurring, rationalizing insanity that defied both understanding and even the ABC transcript team.


Stephanopoulos introduced the segment saying Kim is “a dictator who presides over prison camps, allows millions to starve and has threatened to destroy the United States.” Rodman was vintage village idiot, filling center court the way Hollywood did it for decades rationalizing the murder and abuses of the Soviet Union and Red China.

The one-time wedding-dress-wearing basketball player, explained his quintessential dumb-jock logic. He said of Kim, “He loves basketball.” That was followed by one of many infantile arguments. “Obama loves basketball. Let’s talk there,” proving he may be a bigger fool than even CNN’s bloviating Piers Morgan. (That takes some doing.) Rodman kept on digging. “He’s a great guy. He’s just a great guy,” he said of Krazy Kim.

Thankfully, Stephanopoulos didn’t let that drop and confronted Rodman with reality. “He’s a great guy who puts 200,000 people in prison camps?” Rodman’s response claimed “we do the same things here” and “this is all politics, right?”

According to Ambassador Rodman, “he don’t want to do that.” Freeing the 200,000 of course is beyond the absolute dictator of the freakish “hermit kingdom.” That idea was made even less likely by the air of legitimacy Rodman gave to the inhuman travesty that is North Korea.

Stephanopoulos followed that interview with the somewhat more lucid but equally disgusting Shane Smith, founder of Vice Media, saying he hoped it was “the beginning of a dialogue” with North Korea. Vice Media is the schlock outfit that sent Rodman to North Korea as part of its new HBO show. Surprisingly, Smith didn’t parrot Shipman and promise a full-court press.

Vice raved about its new show and its “videotaped hijinks” in a 2012 posting, but oddly vowed “an honest approach to documentary journalism.” It promises “a variety of mind-melting stories from around the globe and immersive detours into the scariest, most absurd, and flat-out unbelievable cultures and situations around the globe.”

Just in case there’s some doubt that HBO might have green-lighted something close to journalism, Vice makes it clear they didn’t. “Here are a few ideas we're spitballing right now: a portrait of child Taliban suicide bombers, visiting underground voodoo heroin clinics in New York, riding along with Somalian pirates, and booking a teeth cleaning with a Satanic dentist in the Pacific Northwest.”

Apparently the model is to merge the worst of the movie “Jackass” with old-style National Enquirer stories. Only “Jackass” was more intelligent (not saying much) and The National Enquirer now actually does journalism. Vice is just a stunt show with a patina of professionalism. Time Warner, the parent of HBO, should question the sanity of whatever executive OK’d this trip. Or just make him the location scout for the story about Somali pirates.

As for Rodman, his latest escapades were so embarrassing that even the clown of the court has gone into seclusion, canceling more potentially disastrous interviews. Or perhaps he’s spending his time reading up on how his “friend for life” runs a country so awful that cannibalism is only one of its many horrors.

That’s doubtful. To both Rodman and most in the media, it was all a game. But the final score was murderous dictator 100, journalists 6. The freaks at HBO who signed on to the “Vice” stupidity, the Vice team, Shipman and Rodman should all be dragged to one of the North Korean prison camps for a long visit. Maybe there they’d learn what kind of regime they had covered for. Maybe there, they’d learn how deadly their “quirky” little dictator really is. Maybe they’d learn when you play with North Korea, you play with nuclear fire.

Now that would be a slam dunk.


Dan Gainor is the Media Research Center's Vice President for Business and Culture. He writes frequently about media for Fox News Opinion. He can also be contacted on Facebook and Twitter as dangainor.