Rush Limbaugh sparks dispute on SSA bus

There was a dispute aboard an SSA bus Tuesday over the driver's choice of radio stations. - File photo

Vineyarder Beth O’Connor and a bus driver for the Steamship Authority didn’t see eye to eye over radio choices aboard a Palmer Avenue bus Tuesday, and O’Connor let folks know it Tuesday afternoon through a post on SOSA, the Save Our Steamship Authority Facebook group. 

“I just had a very bad experience with a Palmer Avenue bus driver,” O’Connor posted. “I told him it was inappropriate to play Rush Limbaugh radio trashing the people testifying at the impeachment hearings on a public bus with a captive audience, and he got all worked up and called me a liberal, and told me I was violating his First Amendment rights. It was downright scary. The guy directing the buses told him to back off. I don’t care what this guy believes, and I am all for him standing him up for his rights, but not on a public bus that my tax dollars pay for.”

The incident took place Tuesday on a shuttle bus ride from the SSA Palmer lot to the Woods Hole terminal. O’Connor told The Times she was seated a third of the way into the bus and could not tell if Limbaugh was emanating from a portable device or from a radio built into the bus. 

“There were only about [five] people on the bus,” she wrote. “I asked the driver whose radio it was. And he said, ‘Mine — you got a problem with that?’”

The dispute comes as President Donald Trump is facing impeachment hearings for his alleged request that the Ukraine government investigate political rival Joseph Biden, with military aid hanging in the balance. The hearings are being televised live on several networks. 

Limbaugh, a conservative radio host and staunch Trump booster, has heavily criticized the Ukraine investigation, as he did the Mueller investigation. Limbaugh and Trump are both residents of Palm Beach County, Florida. 

SSA spokesman Sean Driscoll said the ferry line tries to maintain an apolitical atmosphere. “As we do on the boats, we implement a ‘no politics’ rule for the radios on the buses, and have reminded our drivers of that,” he wrote in a text message. “Regarding the question of our employee’s conduct, we are closely reviewing the situation. I cannot comment beyond that, as it is a personnel matter.”

Despite her friction with the bus driver, whom she said wore a Paul M. name tag, O’Connor felt the SSA did a proper job of managing the situation once she got off the bus.

“[T]hey handled it extremely well, I thought,” she wrote. “The driver was very angry, and the other guy kept telling him to back off. The driver kept repeating that I was violating his First Amendment rights.”

O’Connor said she isn’t sure who the SSA employee was who interceded on her behalf. 

“That guy was great,” she wrote. “I told him repeatedly what [the bus driver] listened to on his own time in his own home was none of my business, but he cannot do it on a public bus with a captive audience.”

At the SSA board’s January 2018 meeting, Steve Sayers, then general counsel, informed board members that news channels like Fox News, CNN, and PBS would no longer be shown due to complaints. Local news programs like NECN, sports, the Weather Channel, Food Channel, and Discovery Channel are acceptable, Sayers wrote at the time.

As for the latest dustup, commenters weighed in aplenty. Six hours after the thread was posted, there were more than 100 comments.

“As a cab driver I always change what I’m listening to in private to something more palatable when customers enter. Bus drivers should do the same,” Ed Cisek wrote. 

“You are 100% right, and no doubt the defenders of the indefensible will say you are wrong but you’re not … And for the record, for anyone to trash a man with a Purple Heart and a distinguished service record truly MUST be a supporter of Cadet Bonespurs,” Scott Ryan wrote. 

“She’s on a public bus,” Bobby Thompson wrote. “If you don’t like it, put headphones in. I go to the YMCA hearing total nonsense, and I just put my headphones in; problem solved.”

O’Connor said she’s never had a negative experience like that on an SSA bus. “They all seem like good people,” she wrote. “I am hopeful they have the entire thing on camera.”

Asked if he has been able to review video footage from inside the bus, Driscoll said he does not comment on SSA security matters, including cameras, and would not verify a camera exists in the bus. 


  1. Thank you Beth for speaking out against hate mongering on publicly paid-for transportation. You like Rush? YOU put headphones in and listen to that nonsense. Dont subject the riding public to the sickening trash Rush Limbaugh spews.

  2. So Beth you don’t want a certain radio station played on your tax dollar because you don’t like it but your ok with locals standing on the street corner that your tax dollar pays for protesting climate change, political matters or any other subject that gets protested at 5 corners? At the most your ride on the ssa bus was no longer than 8 mins and your telling me you couldn’t block out back ground noise or better yet open your ears and have a listen? Seems kind of one way especially for those of us that have an interest in what’s being said.

    • Moved– Listening to Rushbo’s (that’s what he calls himself ) racist hate and lies for 8 minutes is enough for most moral intelligent people to want to jump out of a moving bus. Fortunately, He rarely actually speaks for that long, as they have to fill in endless commercials to pay his $ 1 million a week salary.
      And the commercials are not much better. Mostly preying on the fears that listening to this garbage promotes.

    • “You know how to stop abortion? Require that each one occur with a gun.” (The Rush Limbaugh Show, 16 January 2013.) So, this is the kind of thing you like to hear, the king of thing in which you have an interest?

  3. Rush Limbaugh is a despicable man and no one on Earth should be listening to the hatred and confusion he sells on his garbage radio show.

    I remember in the last years of my grandma’s life she was angry and full of bigotry because of Limbaugh. She claimed Obama was a Muslim and African born. She would watch Faux News and listen to rush limbaugh and she became a confused and angry person for it. It was incredibly sad.

    Keep that smut peddler off our buses. He’s bad for society.

  4. Wasn’t the person who used his plow to assault protesters an SSA employee? Wonder if there is a connection. The driver also needs a lesson in what the first amendment does and does not do.

  5. Just goes to show what angry, intelligence-lacking losers most Trump supporters are. Makes a bus driver feel powerful to force people to listen to the garbage that makes him feel better about his pathetic life which clearly hasn’t improved under MAGA.

      • ssabckwrds: He tied his occupation, bus driver, to his political ideas, imposing them on passengers he is paid to safely drive from one place to another. His response, when asked to turn down/turn off the political ideas he was forcing his passengers to hear, is not the sign of a person who is happy.

    • No one is going to say anything about this? Ok, I guess I will.

      Honest work should not be maligned. Referring to his life as “pathetic” for taking a job that he needs to support himself (and maybe a family) is poor form. You may not like his politics, but calling people “losers” for not having better job opportunities is exactly the type of bullying behavior that the right-wing (and Trump in particular) is famous for.

      • I did not malign his job, or, I did not mean to. In my view, it is pathetic and even desperate to use one’s paid job as a means to impose political beliefs on those who are not interested in hearing them. Passengers had no choice but to listen. Bus passengers are at the mercy of the driver. I have had teenage children, who, before they had their license, were forced to listen to me talk when I drove them place to place. My kids had no choice. It’s what we call a captive audience. Tax paying bus passengers are not children, and bus drivers are not dictatorial parents who get to impose anything unwanted on their passengers.

    • Jackie, I support Trump and I am extremely intelligent with worldwide residential experience, undergraduate, graduate and Harvard B School and have earned millions over the years and run giant companies. I am also humble and dont brag about my achievements and love every word that Rush says. I could neutralize liberals with one arm tied behind my back.( I am laughing right now) The driver was simply listening to the radio and while it might be rude he certainly was not imposing his beliefs on anyone.

      • “I am extremely intelligent with worldwide residential experience, undergraduate, graduate and Harvard B School and have earned millions over the years and run giant companies.”

        “I am also humble and don’t brag about my achievements.”

        Good for you Andy!

  6. I would taken this opportunity to educate that bus driver about Limbaugh. Forcing him to shut it off Only reinforced his biased beliefs.

  7. Its the same station the Redsox, Bruins ,Celtics, and Patriots are on. Not his fault. Have some tolerance.

  8. Doesn’t Rush spew the same garbage day after day? Not sure what thrill the bus driver gets by listening to the same drivel over and over again.

    • The driver gets his thrill, not from listening to the same drivel he can easily listen to when he’s off the clock, but from imposing angry, racist, hate-filled views on the people he is paid to drive, not unlike an internet troll.

  9. This was worthy of a complaint? More important things going on in this world. Apparently the complainer has a good life if this triggers her

  10. Have the Blues eliminated freedom of choice?Just remember, everyone is a power of example one way or another.Maybe Howard Stern on SiriusXm was not available at the time?It’s never too late to have a happy childhood. Just read it in The MV Times. Don’t think about it.

  11. reminds me of the horseshoe theory, per wikipedia: “the horseshoe theory asserts that the far-left and the far-right, rather than being at opposite and opposing ends of a linear political continuum, closely resemble one another, analogous to the way that the opposite ends of a horseshoe are close together.” Both these two resemble people I wouldn’t want to bump into at a party

  12. For an employee of the beleagured SSA to listen to the exact same drivel on a daily basis most obviously shows a total disregard for humanity.
    SSA find another driver; he ain’t right, as they say in the South.

    • Cancel culture has no place in a pluralistic society. You can disagree with his point of view but it’s unreasonable to expect his employer to fire him because his politics differ from the norm of our region.

  13. New news when you say spewing garbage I think you may be mixing up Rush with npr, cnn or possibly msnbc. I look forward to the next 5 year’s with Mr Trump as our president and listening to Rush every minute that is possible. Rush has been 9talking about the impeachment sham which is top priority in news topic so why can’t this driver stay well informed and updated on how it’s moving along? If it was npr radio discussing what shifty schiff was saying would all you Trump haters feel the same? I’m sure you’d happily sit and listen.

  14. Judgment depends on whether she asked him to turn it down, or turn it off. Driving with headphones is not allowed and a bus driver should be able to try to enjoy himself with radio entertainment to distract from the selfish.

  15. D×3
    The only fear of Sir Rush comes from the left as he uncovers their lies and calls out the crookedness. He was right on today when he said the dems are falling apart with this impeachment farse and I have to say after watching sondland today get his butt handed to him by Jim Jordan Sir Rush was right on target!

    • “The NAACP should have riot rehearsal. They should get a liquor store and practice robberies.” (The Rush Limbaugh Show, 1992, quoted in Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting (1995-05-01). Is this also right on target?

    • It’s my pleasure to say that although I disagree with your assessment of today’s events entirely, we’re able to coexist peacefully in the same civilized society. THAT is the most critical aspect of a community, and it still exists in the US in spades despite the media-commentary to the contrary.

  16. Boo hoo Beth, I don’t like country music but I can ignore easily enough if I hear it playing somewhere. When did we become a nation of intolerance and maybe ignorance?

      • I don’t think anyone is conflating country music with hate crimes.
        My guess is Carl is using his dislike of country music as an example of how easy it is to ignore it for ten minutes.

  17. Bulkington
    Imagine Sir Rush said that 24 years ago and he’s still at the top of his game. I haven’t read the article yet but I might find the time to have a read and probably a chuckle afterwards. Rush should be a guiding light for the fine folks on the left (being nice Mr Brennan). Feeling very invigorated and have even more confidence in King Trump after that disaster of a Dem debate last night on tv.

    • moved– why am I not surprised that you haven’t even read the article , but have taken the time to comment about it 4 times ? It must be nice to speak to issues with the authority of willful ignorance, where nothing one says can be debunked.
      You would get along great with my republican neighbor. For weeks he complained about the impeachment hearings being “behind closed doors” and berating the “second hand accounts”.
      When the hearings went public , and people with first hand knowledge of the facts were speaking publicly, he said ” I don’t need to listen to that trash– I already know everything I need to know.”
      And by the way, we still have a democracy. trump is not a “king”. If he were, he would likely have already met the same fate as king Charles 1. Today, fortunately for trump,we have a more humane way of dealing with traitorous tyrants. It’s called “impeachment”

  18. At the sake of having my comment deleted again.
    Sometimes when you step outside your own secure little insulated world different things happen.
    For instance.. someone has a different opinion or view of something. Does that give you the right to DEMAND that they adhere to your chosen ideology or viewpoint? NO, it seems the people with the least amount of tolerence are complaining the most and the loudest. Might be time to stay out of the great big scary world as much as possible
    Could this be the same type of person who was triggered by certain TV shows aired on the steamship vessels?

    • viewfromthere– There are limits– I would bet quite a few people would be upset if the tv shows being aired were pornographic in nature. By the same token, would you think it would be ok if the driver wanted to listen to Howard Stern? For those who don’t know Howard Stern, he is a “shock lock” and his shows focus on explicit sexual smut.
      Limbaugh focuses primarily on why we should hate migrants, people of color and liberals– especially liberals.

      • “Limbaugh focuses primarily on why we should hate migrants, people of color and liberals– especially liberals.”

        I thin you nailed it down there. Rush is a huge part of the synergy behind the demonetization of the word liberal in right-wing media. The right uses the word liberal like a swear word, an insult. The victims of right-wing propaganda get a dose of Adrenalin every time they hear the word. They become addicts.

  19. I am disappointed in many of the comments about this issue. I see hateful comments about the livelihood (honest work) tied to the political which has no place in civilized discourse. Some of the comments are so intractable that I fear there may be no meeting of the minds, nay, even the good manners to be civilized with people who disagree with us. I can tell from the language used, the words strung together that many people commenting are accusing others of hate, when in fact the accusers may wish to examine the possibility that others deserve respect, regardless of the occupation , opinions, and political leanings of people. Many of these comments are uncivilized, unmannerly and simply show scorn leveled at other human beings.

    • Augusta: the bar has been lowered. You realize, I hope, that you are describing to a T the current POTUS: uncivilized, unmannerly, and scornful of others. Can’t get any lower than Trump, the role-model-in-Chief.

      • Indeed, Jackie, you are showing my earlier comment is right on… calling, scorn, rather than discussing ideas….you just proved my point.

  20. Dddx312
    I believe you mistaken on how many times I commented on the article Bulkington was referring to. It was almost a quarter century ago and I had way too many things going on at that time to give a rats ***. I’d love to hangout with your neighbor and watch you display your Trump frown for 5 MORE YEARS!! I’ll bet you maybe 1 out of 25 young liberals from the age of 15 to 27 couldn’t even tell you who KC 1 is. I know exactly what kind of society we live in and if I choose to use King Trump then I shall. Care to wager the impeachment farse or Trump 2020 re-election dddx312?

    • Moved– perhaps you have to be more careful with your grammar.
      I won’t take bets on the stupidity of the general public, but I will take bets on climate change..
      10 to one this year that 2020 will one of the 10 warmest years on record globally— Should be a slam dunk for you, Both king trump and sir rush say climate change is a hoax. How could they BOTH be wrong ? Come on, take the opportunity to take easy money from a foolish liberal. I will put my money where my mouth is — how about you ? — 10 to one .. You put in100 , I’ll put in 1000.
      I’ll even donate half of my winnings to your favorite charity, if you have one.

    • “I had way too many things going on at that time to give a rats ***.” How eloquent. I cannot imagine what game at which Rush is at the top. “Sir Rush?” His guiding light, the light you claim to see, comes from a burglar’s flashlight. Back to the article atop this thread. The passenger is a customer. The driver is paid to provide a service to the passenger. You can judge the quality of that service, good or bad, on its merits. It is not about being politically correct. What would happen, as Messenger proposes, if a Police Officer, a doctor, a nurse, or a bus driver told a civilian, a patient, or a passenger to move to the back of the line, the emergency room, or the bus? (Messenger, “sit towards the back of bus.” A poor choice of words.)

  21. Teachable moment – Driver is an employee on the clock. Job is to get customers to and from the boat, not listen to the radio. Be it Rush, Rachel Madow or Joe castiglione, if a customer is exercised about what’s playing, the correct thing is to turn it down or off. This is not a constitutional or existential issue, just one of common courtesy.

  22. Beth’s your first word is I! Which says alot about someone – Then ask this question? The bus driver had a bad experience also! You told him, a free citizen that his choice was inappropriate! Beth, here is tip, momma always said, “If you have nothing nice to say when say nothing at all” The appropriate way of handling the situation could have been, smile and sit towards the back of bus,” But no, you needed to state your self-righteous opinion on someone else! What’s that bumper sticker saying “Coexist” well do that!

    • I think the driver could use your advice also. Rush Limbaugh has said virtually nothing nice during his whole career. Maybe he could just say nothing and the driver could listen to nothing. Problem solved.

  23. Thank you all for your input – supportive or otherwise. I stand by my belief that political commentary does not belong on the bus or any other public vehicle, regardless of content. Fortunately, the SSA policy is clear and it is really just a matter of education. Some of the comments above are the exact reason political commentary should not be allowed. Some of these talk show can be very divisive and fuel hatred. Thank you all again for weighing in.

  24. To all: I wonder what happens in airports when CNN is on in almost every airport? Do you all get exercised over that? How about sports games being blared over media? It seems to me that this issue was not that media was being played, by itself, but that the content was anathema to the complainer,yes?

  25. Having been on the boat and forced to watch Faux News on the occasional trip, I quickly learned to add the remote control app for the TV provider to my phone. ThePurser who preferred Faux News never did figure out why the channel kept on changing to “other”

    • yes, your help, a dictator in full flight….I will control the message with my sneaky little electronic gadget….

    • You weren’t forced to watch anything…as I remember the last time I was on the boat, the sound on the TV’s is off and only the words of the speaker are displayed on the screen…same as the airport constantly tuned to CNN…I don’t watch that either, but I don’t demand it be shut off or secretly change the channel with some device..only seems democrats do that type of childish nonsense

  26. There are none so deaf as those who will not hear! Any questions ? If so ask the MV TIMES, they will give you an answer.Don’t think,just read it in the MV TIMES….

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