Eric Bostrom poses in front of his red Toyota Prius. // Photo by Zoe Deal
By Zoe Deal
Students and Bellingham residents have taken to social media to issue public service announcements after it became known that notorious preacher and former City Council candidate Eric Bostrom became a driver for Uber.
The posts brought attention to Bostrom’s anti-LGBTQ+ and “Repent or Burn in Hell” signs and reminded Uber users to check their driver’s profile when requesting a ride. One repost by Bellingham resident Valentine Perez, 28, has nearly 700 shares.
Junior Maddie Rackers thinks the PSA will allow more of the community to be prepared.
“A lot of people just won’t feel safe being in the car with him,” Rackers said.
Evelyn Hobbs, coordinator of the Associated Students Queer Resource Center, agreed.
“To have somebody who is clearly hateful and actively going into places to disrupt people’s lives be in such a public position is dangerous,” she said.
Hobbs said she recognizes that Bostrom has no known history of violence, but said the danger is that riders are at the driver’s mercy.
“[A driver has] control over what happens to you until you get to whatever destination you’re going to,” Hobbs said.
Though some on Facebook have vowed to avoid Bostrom and Uber at all costs by using Lyft, others commented their intentions to seek out Bostrom as an Uber driver.
Bostrom said he won’t take the bait. When he opens the Uber app, he said he keeps his personal life to himself. Uber’s policy doesn’t allow either the driver or rider to pry into the other’s personal beliefs, Bostrom said.
“If somebody wanted to [engage], I’d say, ‘Well, this is not the time or place. The only thing that we’re doing is a ride from point A to point B,’” Bostrom said.
As of May 22 at 4:15 pm, Bostrom had facilitated 353 trips. He had received a five-star rating from 88 percent of rated trips, and his cumulative Uber star rating was 4.74 out of 5.
Bostrom said he doesn’t think people in the community should be afraid or concerned about sitting in his backseat. They can always cancel their request. If anything, he said, he should be the worried party.
“In all my preaching, I’ve never assaulted anybody, but I’ve been assaulted many times,” Bostrom said. “I’m the one who should worry about my safety. I have people that are worried about my safety just because I’m out driving.”
Whatcom Community College student Jayna Edmonds said she wouldn’t be afraid to ride with Bostrom, though he has called her a “bigoted troll.”
“I don’t think that he’s dangerous. It might be a little awkward or uncomfortable, but at the end of the day he’s just a sad, old man who’s trying to make a living,” Edmonds said in an email.
Some community members are going a step further to protect themselves and others. One person posted directly on the Uber Facebook page requesting Bostrom’s removal. Hobbs said she plans to contact Uber directly.
Though Bostrom said he has experienced his fair share of online backlash in the past, he said he will consider suing if the community continues attacking his choice of work.
“You don’t get to affect people’s livelihood just because you don’t like something,” Bostrom said.
However, Bostrom said he is still open to conversation – outside of his red Prius.