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Is Don really a racist? His Seattle taxi cab criticism draws strong rebuke

Don O'Neill and the Stranger are at odds over Don's criticism of Yellow Cab drivers in Seattle. (AP file)

Is KIRO Radio’s Don O’Neill really a racist? Some readers at the Stranger sure think so after Dominic Holden wrote a blistering rebuke of Don’s criticism of Yellow Cab and many of its drivers during a discussion last week on the Ron and Don Show about the ongoing dispute involving cabs and other services in Seattle.

What really set off Holden and others was Don’s list of tips for Yellow Cab to remain competitive. His top one? Take a shower.

“The Uber drivers, they all bathe. So if you drive for Yellow, then you should go take a shower,” Don said in reference to what he says is an all too frequent smell coming from many of the Yellow Cab drivers.

That got Holden to shoot back with some tips of his own.

“Go [expletive] yourself. Taxi drivers do bathe,” Holden wrote. “Maybe you had a driver who smelled before-that can happen to humans working a 13-hour shift-but I’m certain the overwhelming majority of drivers have sterling hygiene. You’re making up a fake complaint. Having a problem with cab services doesn’t require treating those drivers like [expletive].”

But Don insists he was merely being honest and making observations based on his frequent use of cabs and his now preferred Uber car service.

“I think Yellow Cab really does provide a horrible service, but because it was the only service in town they’ve been allowed to do so,” Don said.

While many commenters call Don racist, he countered all the drivers he frequently calls from Uber are African. “And these are former drivers, two of them that used to drive for Yellow Cab, one of them drove a town car, and they just find the Uber experience is a better experience.”

Don also criticized Yellow Cab for frequently failing to arrive within the promised time, not knowing where they’re going, and constantly talking on their phones to someone else.

“Every single time they’re on the phone with an earpiece having a conversation with somebody and it’s not you and they never know where they’re going,” Don said during a followup Tuesday.

Listeners who called in to the show tended to agree.

“They say they’re on their way and you sit there for an hour,” said Jenara in Puyallup.

“I’ve had to call in, I don’t know, half a dozen times in the last week, because of the cruddy driving and just watching them cut people off and their rotten attitude and the stench in the cab,” said James in Seattle.

But Yellow Cab driver John in Tacoma countered the bad drivers are an exception rather than a rule.

“A lot of folks don’t understand what a cab driver goes through,” he said. “I think you’re kind of generalizing and that’s always dangerous. There’s always an exception to the rule.”

Licensed taxi drivers in Seattle continue to stage protests over what they call illegal competition from services like Uber and Lyft, along with other for-hire drivers and companies. And Don argues as long the licensed drivers continue to provide an inferior service, they don’t have a right to complain and he’ll stick with Uber.

What do you think? What’s been your experience with Seattle cabs?

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