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Detroit ‘Murder’ Joke Bombs

<i> United Press International</i>

A Michigan Blue Cross-Blue Shield executive caused a stir by pulling out a toy gun and telling out-of-town guests at a business meeting: “Welcome to Detroit, murder capital of the world.”

The incident at last week’s opening of a two-day meeting of finance executives from Blue Cross operations across the country was reported today by the Detroit Free Press.

The crack was made by Dennis Weiss, director of national accounting for Blue Cross who oversees a staff of 64 in Detroit.

Weiss’ boss, Brenda Ball, Michigan Blue Cross controller and vice president, said she and about five members of her staff saw Weiss pull the stunt.

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“I made it clear that neither Blue Cross nor myself considers these kinds of remarks appropriate,” Ball said. “Negative statements hurt the city and damage our image as a corporation.”

Weiss has been ordered to write to participants at the meeting and tell them positive things about Detroit, Ball said.

Free Press columnist Susan Watson, who reported the incident, wrote that the joke was not only in bad taste, but factually wrong. Washington last year edged out Detroit as the major U.S. city with the highest murder rate.

“Of course, being first runner-up, or even second runner-up, is nothing to brag about,” she wrote. “It’s a disgrace. And in a city where scores of youngsters are shot to death each year, you don’t use murder jokes to start a meeting with a bang.”

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