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'He was Jewish': Johnny Bench says his comment was 'insensitive' after making antisemitic joke

During the Reds Hall of Fame Induction press conference Johnny Bench made an inappropriate joke
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Posted at 8:22 PM, Jul 15, 2023

CINCINNATI — Cincinnati Reds Hall of Famer Johnny Bench has responded after making an antisemitic joke during the Reds Hall of Fame press conference Saturday.

Bench has called his comment about Jewish people "insensitive." He made the comment as a joke responding to Pete Rose, who was talking about Gabe Paul, a former general manager of the Reds who was Jewish.

The Reds Hall of Fame was inducting Danny Graves, Bronson Arroyo and the late Paul, who was represented by his daughter Jennie Paul. The inductees were joined on stage by previous Reds Hall of Fame Classes. The two biggest stars on stage were Pete Rose and Bench.

The three new Hall of Fame inductees were given a chance to speak to make opening remarks.

“I don’t know if you know this, but dad (Gabe Paul) started this Hall of Fame. He didn’t start this Hall of Fame so he could be in it. He started this Hall of Fame for all of you,” Paul said, gesturing to the Hall of Famers on stage with her.

Gabe Paul was the general manager of the Reds from 1951-1960. Paul died in 1998.

“He (Gabe Paul) was a minority himself, I don’t know if many of you know that he was Jewish. He was a very big proponent for the underdog because he was an underdog himself. He went into the Latin leagues and the Negro leagues and he signed as many minority players as he could. Which strengthened the Reds. You have a team in Cincinnati today because of Gabe Paul, I’m so proud to be representing him so thank you so much,” Paul said.

About fifteen minutes into the press conference, Pete Rose was given the opportunity to speak about the late Gabe Paul.

“I was right out of high school in 1960. Gabe Paul signed me to a contract. For $400 bucks a month,” Rose said.

“That’s cheap!” Jennie Paul interrupted.

After a few laughs, Johnny Bench chimed in.

“He was Jewish!” Bench said across the stage.

Some in the room laughed, other kept to themselves.

After the comment, Bench said he apologized to Jennie Paul for taking away from her father's honor.

Here is Bench's full comment:

I recognize my comment was insensitive. I apologized to Jennie for taking away from her father the full attention he deserves. Gabe Paul earned his place in the Reds Hall of Fame, same as the others who stood on that stage, I am sorry that some of the focus is on my inappropriate remark instead of solely on Gabe’s achievement.

WCPO has reached out to the Reds for comment, but they have not responded.