Tow truck driver defends decision to leave motorist stranded over 'Bernie' bumper sticker
GREENVILLE, S.C. (WLOS) -- A tow truck driver who left a woman stranded on the side of the interstate in North Carolina because of conflicting political views defended his actions because he said he's had trouble with "that socialist mindset" before.
Ken Shupe, of Shupee Max Towing in Traveler's Rest, South Carolina, went as far as to say he was "proud" of his decision to stand by his beliefs and would do it again.
Shupe was asked by a friend of 30 years to pick up Cassy McWade after she got into an accident on Interstate 26 in Asheville, North Carolina - about a 45 minute drive one way.
"I walked behind her car and that's when I saw it. She had a 'Feel The Bern' sticker," Shupe said. "She had a big Bernie Sanders sticker in the back window, which is all good. I was polite to her. I said 'ma'am I'm not going to be able to tow your car today.'
"I said 'I'm sorry but, it's obvious you're a Bernie Sanders supporter and a socialist and I think you need to call the government to get them to tow your car for free,'" he continued.
McWade said that's precisely what happened on Monday on her way home from her boyfriend's house in Knoxville, Tennessee.
"I didn't have a backup situation or anything like that," she said.
The story made national headlines because it harkens to a deepening divide between progressive and conservative voters.
Shupe said he previously had issues with customers with "that kind of mindset" he said repeatedly. He remarked that these customers were the type to argue over a $50 towing bill.
"I'm not going to associated with them. I'm not going to do business with them," Shupe said. "I've drawn a line in the sand. The side of my truck says Shupee. It doesn't say freebie."
But Shupe did take exception to the controversy and backlash that followed.
"The issue I have with it is her mother has turned this into me being a bigot based on a conscious decision I made not to work with these socialist mindset individuals anymore," he said. "They've condemned me and crucified me for being a Christian conservative."
"I'm not a bad person. I'm not a bigot. I'm not a racist," he continued.
McWade said Shupe "was nice at first" but wasn't sensitive to the fact that she is in fact disabled.
"That's probably the most heartbreaking thing to me," McWade, who suffers from an auto-immune disease, said.
McWade, 20, takes "18 pills a day" to tame her invisible illness, she said while brandished a plastic bag filled with prescription pill bottles. And she said she keeps a handicapped placard hanging from her rear view mirror - a claim Shupe refuted in a follow-up interview.
"Now they're saying she's disabled. That was not made known to me," he said "Now had I known she was disabled, would I have towed her car? No ma'am. But I would've pulled forward and sat with her to make sure she was OK until another wrecker service showed up to get her home safely."
Shupe lamented that while this week is National Police Week, the Internet was instead outraged by his decision to not pick up a stranded motorist.
McWade meanwhile showed a WLOS reporter a receipt for a $165 towing bill that she signed without issue. McWade was left on the interstate, she said, for about 25 to 30 minutes after she left.
Shupe was "cursed out" by McWade's mother. ("My mom is very much a momma bear," McWade said.)
"She said curse words I didn't know exist," Shupe said, adding that the outpouring of support he's received has been "tremendous."
Mcwade didn't expect the ordeal to make national headlines.
"That's just a bad business. Jesus wouldn't treat people like this," she said.