NBA legend Dennis Rodman, who once appeared on President Donald Trump’s Celebrity Apprentice, is back in North Korea. He arrived just hours before American Otto Warmbier was released from captivity, leading some to wonder if Trump used Rodman’s relationship with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un to secure Warmbier’s release.
However, this is not the case. The Washington Post reports that Warmbier’s health might have been the main factor in his release, since his parents were told that he is in a coma. The Post’s Anna Fifield described Rodman’s visit as a “bizarre coincidence” and “perhaps a deliberate attempt by North Korea to distract.” The 22-year-old Warmbier was in captivity for 17 months.
“The Warmbiers were told that Otto had come down with botulism soon after his trial and had been given a sleeping pill. He hasn’t woken up,” Fifield reported.
Here’s a look at Rodman’s relationship with Trump.
1. Rodman Didn’t Say if He Spoke With Trump Before Going to North Korea
CNN first reported that Rodman was going to North Korea for the first time since January 2014. Rodman wouldn’t confirm if he spoke with Trump before the trip, but he told CNN that Trump was likely happy about it.
“I’m pretty sure he’s happy at the fact that I’m over here trying to accomplish something that we both need,” Rodman told CNN.
Rodman’s trip is being sponsored by Potcoin, a digital currency for the cannabis industry. He was even spotted in Beijing’s airport wearing the company’s logo on a t-shirt.
“I’M BACK! THANKS TO MY SPONSOR WWW.POTCOIN.COM,” Rodman said in a statement on Viktre. “I will discuss my mission upon my return to the USA.”
2. Rodman Voiced Support for Trump on Twitter During the 2016 Campaign
During the 2016 presidential campaign, Rodman threw his support behind Trump. He endorsed Trump with a tweet back in July 2015, a short time after Trump launched his campaign.
“@realDonaldTrump has been a great friend for many years. We don’t need another politician, we need a businessman like Mr. Trump! Trump 2016,” Rodman tweeted.
When Rodman arrived in North Korea, he told reporters that he was hoping to “open a door” for Trump in North Korea, notes the Associated Press.
3. Trump Called Rodman ‘Delusional’ for Suggesting He’d Go to North Korea With Him
In a March 2013 Fox & Friends interview, Trump endorsed Rodman’s suggestion that Obama and Kim have a phone call. But when Rodman suggested that Trump take part in dialogue with North Korea himself, Trump called Rodman “delusional.”
In May 2014, Trump tweeted that Rodman was “either drunk or on drugs (delusional)” when he suggested Trump would go with him to North Korea.
That tweet came months after Rodman apologized for a bizarre CNN interview in January 2014. During that interview, he appeared to suggest that Kenneth Bae, an American who was finally released from North Korean captivity in 2014, may have deserved his 15-year sentence of hard labor.
“I want to first apologize to Kenneth Bae’s family,” Rodman said. “I want to apologize to my teammates and my management team. I also want to apologize to Chris Cuomo.” Rodman did admit to drinking and apologized for embarrassing himself and the other former basketball players who were with him at the time. Bae’s family accepted his apology.
4. Rodman Was Fired from ‘The Apprentice’ for Spelling Melania Trump’s Name Wrong
During the 13th season of The Apprentice (the sixth season of Celebrity Apprentice), Rodman was eliminated in episode 13 when he spelled future First Lady Melania Trump’s name wrong on a banner. It was spelled “Milania” in one place, but spelled correctly in another spot on the banner.
In the boardroom, Rodman tried to pass the blame on to the printers. Singer Trace Adkins worked with Rodman and said he was “embarrassed” by the misspelling. Adkins then noted that Rodman signed off on the banner as the “project manager.” In the end Rodman was fired.
Rodman also appeared on the eighth season of The Apprentice (the second Celebrity Apprentice season). He didn’t win that year either.
5. Rodman Previously Told TMZ He Hasn’t Spoken to Trump Since His Last ‘Celebrity Apprentice’ Appearance
In a March 2017 interview with TMZ, Rodman said it was “out of my hands” when asked if he’d ever serve as Trump’s ambassador to North Korea. He also said that he’s reached out to Trump, but hasn’t spoken to him since his last appearance on Celebrity Apprentice. Rodman also called his tours over in North Korea a “great experience.”
Rodman recently spoke with DuJour magazine about his relationship with Kim Jong Un. He said Kim really wanted to talk with President Barack Obama.
“He really, really wants to talk to Obama,” Rodman said of Kim. “He can’t say it enough. He wants to talk to him to try to open that door a little bit. He’s saying that he doesn’t want to bomb anybody. He said, ‘I don’t want to kill Americans.’ He loves Americans.”
Rodman added, “It’s just like any other country, you go to Russia, Germany, you’re gonna see soldiers all over the place. You see soldiers that carry guns and sit at the airports. It’s just like that.”