Former basketball star and frequent North Korea visitor Dennis Rodman broke down in tears during a live television interview from Singapore, ahead of the historic meeting between Kim Jong Un and U.S. President Donald Trump.
Rodman became visibly choked up during a live interview on CNN, in which he said he felt vindicated for believing that North Korea would embrace peace.
“I knew things were going to change. I was the only one,” Rodman said.
The former NBA star was in Singapore for the summit, although the White House has repeatedly said he’s not an official part of the U.S. delegation.
He appeared on CNN wearing dark sunglasses, a “Make America Great Again” hat and a T-shirt promoting a cannabis-based cryptocurrency.
“It’s a great day,” Rodman said. “I’m here to see it. I’m so happy.”
Kim and Rodman have been friends since 2013, when Rodman first visited Pyongyang with a delegation of basketball players. Kim is an avid basketball fan with a particular fondness for the Michael Jordan-era Chicago Bulls — a team on which Rodman also played.
Rodman says Kim told him over lunch in 2013 that North Korea was willing to “listen” to the U.S., if it agreed to move its ships away from South Korea.
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Rodman says he took Kim’s message back to the U.S. and tried to share it then-president Barack Obama, but Obama wasn’t willing to listen.
“Obama wouldn’t even give me the time of day,” Rodman said.
“I said to everybody, I said, ‘The door is open.'”
Rodman made several return visits to North Korea after that first meeting, even though it cost him at home.
“I got so many death threats,” he said.
He said he had to hide out for several days after his visits to North Korea because of the alleged threats against his life.
“I took those bullets, I took all that,” he said. “I took everything, everyone came at me and I’m still standing.”
Rodman has touted himself as an unofficial ambassador to North Korea, although he was in Singapore as an ambassador for PotCoin, a Canadian-based cryptocurrency.
Rodman appeared in several episodes of “Celebrity Apprentice” with Trump, who has frequently mocked him for his North Korea ties in the past.
Trump described Rodman on Thursday as a “nice guy,” adding: “No, he was not invited.”
Hogan Gidley, the White House’s deputy press secretary, also downplayed Rodman’s role in the talks. Gidley told Fox News on Thursday that Rodman is “great on the court but negotiations should best be left to those who are good at it.”
With files from The Associated Press