Former NBA star Dennis Rodman traveled to communist North Korea, a trip financed by a documentary filmmaker. Rodman appeared neither officially nor unofficially as part of the U.S. government.
An incredulous George Stephanopoulos of ABC subjected Rodman to a grilling more suitable for a corrupt, double-dealing politician: "When you said you love Kim (Jong Un) and think he's awesome, were you aware of his threats to destroy the United States and his regime's horrendous record on human rights? ... Do you think you have a responsibility to ask him about it so that you don't be perceived as sort of propping up his regime, his cult of personality? ... (He's) a 'great guy' -- who puts 200,000 people in prison camps? ... It sounds like you're apologizing for him. ... Someone who hypothetically is a murderer who is your friend is still a murderer."
So George Stephanopoulos can aggressively interview non-Republicans. Too bad he used his skills on Dennis Rodman rather than on Sean Penn or Michael Moore or his former boss Bill Clinton.
Former President Jimmy Carter, with the approval of then-President Clinton, traveled to North Korea in 1994. But without consulting the Clinton administration, Carter triumphantly announced on CNN the terms of the deal he had supposedly brokered in which North Korea agreed to end its nuclear proliferation program. Hallelujah! But North Korea took the economic assistance -- and continued its nuclear program.
Rodman committed no such blunder.
Actor Sean Penn, who, unlike Rodman, is taken seriously by major media, traveled to Iraq on the eve of the war. As with Rodman, Penn was accompanied by government minders: "I'm here for a simple reason, which is because I'm a patriot and an American who has benefited enormously from being an American, and because I had areas of personal concern and conscience that led me to come to Iraq ... ."
Unlike Penn, Rodman did not blame hostilities on corporate greed. After the Iraq War began, Penn wrote: "If military intervention in Iraq has been a grave misjudgment, it has been one resulting in thousands upon thousands of deaths, and done so without any credible evidence of imminent threat to the United States. Our flag has been waving, it seems, in servicing a regime change significantly benefiting U.S. corporations. ... That same flag that took me so long to love, respect and protect threatens to become a haunting banner of murder, greed and treason against our principles, honored history, Constitution, and our own mothers and fathers. To become a vulgar billboard, advertising our disloyalty to ourselves and our allies."
"Murder, greed and treason"? What about the low-side estimate of 300,000 Iraqis killed by Saddam, the gassing of the Kurds, the money offered families of suicide bombers, the invasion of his neighbors, etc.?
And then there's Penn's "friendship" with the late Venezuelan President-for-life Hugo Chavez. "I lost a friend I was blessed to have," Penn said when he heard of Chavez's recent death. But even the much-celebrated decline in Venezuelan poverty looks less impressive when compared to the rest of capitalist Latin American -- where poverty and income inequality fell even faster. Let us remember the uncomfortable fact that Chavez's political enemies were known to suddenly vanish. Chavez also closed newspapers and television and radio stations for making critical comments about him.
Yet has Penn ever been subjected to the kind of grilling about Iraq and Venezuela from mainstream news outlets the way Stephanopoulos grilled Rodman about North Korea?
This brings us to Michael Moore. Concerned about "the misery (Americans) are put through on a daily basis by our profit-based system," the $50-million-net-worth filmmaker traveled to Havana for a documentary to illustrate the "superiority" of Cuba's health care system. Moore gushed, "Cuba is one of the most generous countries in providing doctors to the Third World."
Was Moore, in his many appearances on CNN, grilled about the killings and imprisonments done at the behest of Fidel Castro and henchman Che Guevara? After all, the number of victims executed or held prisoner under this duo, per capita, puts these murderous thugs on par with Hitler and Stalin. But Moore's stature is such that at one of the Democratic national conventions, Moore sat next to former President Jimmy Carter.
One more thing about Rodman. As I write in my new book, "Dear Father, Dear Son," dads matter. And Rodman had to overcome a lot.
Born in New Jersey, Rodman was raised by a single mother. Rodman's father abandoned the family when Dennis was five. Short, a poor student and mediocre basketball player who couldn't even pull off a decent layup, Dennis found work as a janitor. He then had a sudden growth spurt and decided to give basketball another shot. Poor grades relegated him to an off-the-radar junior college, where he excelled. Newly drafted by the NBA's Detroit Pistons, Rodman was asked by a reporter who he was. His answer: "I'm nobody, straight out of nowhere."
Stephanopoulos unfairly grilled Rodman as if he were a misbehaving diplomat trying to explain away Benghazi. But Penn and Moore get the soft kisses that the media reserve for useful left-wing idiots.
Examiner Columnist Larry Elder is nationally syndicated by Creators Syndicate.