Vice editor Shane Smith told a busy Charlie Rose that his "basketball diplomacy" trip included what would be an extremely exclusive interview with the Mein Kampf-loving, now almost actually diplomatic North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in preparation for Friday's big Dennis Rodman-starring season finale of Vice's big HBO show. But it didn't make the cut. Which makes little to no sense — which, when you think about it, is kind of the Vice way.
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In an appearance on Rose's show on May 24, Smith said the final episode of Vice would include an interview with the North Korean leader. Smith didn't give any details about what the supreme leader said, but he confirmed that a documentary is finished, that he and his team "have the interview," and that they "show" Kim in the documentary. But when the episode finally aired late last week, it looks like the Vice cameras had to be shut off while they had lunch with the young leader. All the juicy bits that Smith teased to Rose were... missing. There was no footage of him speaking with Vice's correspondants at all.
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Two conclusions could be drawn drawn here: 1) Vice is sitting on an interview with Jong-Un for some reason, possibly for a non-HBO Vice documentary for which the brand has become so notorious; or 2) Smith misled Rose about having an "interview" to trump up the HBO finale, which had already been trumped up to death with the whole Vice-orchestrated Rodman trip. Both seem possible. Smith confirms that Vice spoke with Kim, which is true. They presumably spoke over lunch while the cameras were off, in an elaborate meal after Rodman and Kim watched that basketball game together. And Smith confirms Kim is shown in their footage, which is also true of Friday's HBO episode — Kim is on camera doing various strange things throughout the episode. But there's never a clear-cut confirmation; Smith lets Rose (and the viewer) believe what they want to believe.
Maybe they do have an interview. Maybe Kim Jong-un's comments were just a little too weird, a little too far out of left field, a little too Hitler-esque for the State Department. Vice did draw attention from Foggy Bottom with their trip, after all, and The New York Times reported that Rodman, "the only American to have dealt with him," was debriefed by the FBI. And, today, a report accused Kim of handing out copies of Hitler's Mein Kampf, the memoir he wrote in prison, to some of his senior officials.
But who knows if that's really true. North Korea is on a make-up tour with the world powers it has antagonized all year. After offering to participate in nuclear proliferation talks with the U.S. over the weekend, North Korea announced it would be sending an envoy to China for a "strategic dialogue" later this week. We just might not have the sit-down interview the world's been waiting for. Guess we'll have to settle for President Obama and Charlie Rose instead.