On Tuesday's Rick List, CNN's Rick Sanchez unquestioningly forwarded Islamic advocacy group CAIR's admitted speculation about a Virginia license plate containing a supposed coded message of white supremacy/neo-Naziism, which they found on a pickup truck that also had an anti-Islamic message on it [audio clip available here].
Sanchez devoted a brief to the controversy over the Virginia license plate 18 minutes into the 4 pm Eastern hour. Earlier in the hour, the CNN anchor gave a teaser on the issue, summarizing CAIR's take as their publicist might: "Take a look at this: what's wrong with that license plate? Opponents say it has a message of nothing but bigotry and hate. I will take you through it. There's more there than meets the eye." He showed a picture of the pickup truck in question, which had a large Confederate flag on the back window of the cab and the message "Everything I ever needed to know about Islam, I learned on 9/11" on the tailgate.
During the brief itself, Sanchez gave further details on the controversy:
SANCHEZ: Now, take a look at this photo. You can see the World Trade Center burning, and there is the statement: 'Everything I ever needed to know about Islam, I learned on 9/11.' You may have also noticed the huge Confederate flag.
CAIR, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, also noticed the vanity license plate. It reads '14CV88.' CAIR says that is a coded hate message. We're told the number eight is for the eighth letter in the alphabet, 'H.' Two eights equals 'H.H.' for 'Heil Hitler.' Fourteen represents imprisoned white supremacist David Lane's motto about securing the future for white children. 'CV' is for the Confederate veteran plate, which gives you an additional Confederate flag on the truck. And the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles has been alerted to this, and the tag has now been recalled.
The 14-88 combination does appear in white supremacist and neo-Nazi literature as a number symbol. But a quote from Ibrahim Hooper of CAIR in an April 22 Washington Post article made it clear that the Islamic organization was trying to tie anti-Islamist sentiment to the white supremacist movement and basically guessing as to what the numerals meant. He even seemed to stereotype the owners of pickup trucks:
The giveaway that something was amiss, Hooper said, was the truck itself. An enormous photo of the burning World Trade Center towers covers the entire tailgate, with the words: "Everything I ever needed to know about Islam I learned on 9/11."
Hooper at first thought the picture was a Photoshopped hoax. But when he called the DMV and discovered the plate was registered in 2005 to a Ford F-150 pickup truck, Hooper started to worry.
"If the license plate had been on a VW Beetle with nothing else on it, or a Volvo station wagon, no one would probably have noticed," said Hooper. "But when the Confederate flag is thrown in...it shows the convergence of anti-government and anti-Islamic sentiments that unfortunately seem to be growing."
CAIR also issued a press release on the matter on April 22 which began, "The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) said today that the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles...has recalled a license plate in that state that included what appeared to be coded terms for neo-Nazi and white supremacist slogans." So the organization made it clear that it was speculation on their part, given the "what appeared to be" phrase. Later in the release, a statement from Hooper reenforced this sentiment: "I therefore respectfully request that this license plate be investigated to determine whether it violates state policy against socially and racially disparaging content. If it is determined that the license plate contains coded racist terms, I would ask that it be recalled immediately by the DMV."