Fact Check

Retired Marine Forced to Remove 'USMC Decals,' Neighbors Keep Obama Stickers

Was a retired marine forced to remove USMC decals from his car or be fined, while his neighbors kept their Obama stickers?

Published Nov 21, 2014


Claim:   A retired Marine was forced to remove USMC decals from his car or be fined, while neighbors were allowed to keep their Obama stickers without incident.


TRUE: Dallas resident Frank Larison received a homeowner's association letter ordering him to remove USMC decals from his car or face a fine of $50 a day.
FALSE: The homeowner's association singled out Larison because of his military association and deemed Obama stickers to be the only allowable form of car decal.

Example:   [Collected via email, November 2014]

Retired marine forced to remove his "USMC Decals" while neighbors keep Obama's stickers from his Chevy car.

He'll be fined $50 a day if he refused to do so. If he doesn't pay he will
be towed.


Origins:   On 17 November 2014, the Conservative Post web site shared an article titled "Retired marine forced to remove his 'USMC Decals'

while neighbors keep Obama's stickers." In that article, the site highlighted the plight of retired Marine Frank Larison and a choice he faced between removing United States Marine Corps (USMC) stickers from his automobile or either facing a hefty fine of $50 a day or seeing his car towed away.

The Conservative Post wasn't the first web outlet to tell Larison's story. A similar site published an article about Larison's decals on 10 September 2014, using similar language and making roughly the same claims.

Both 2014 posts cited "confusion" as one of the feelings readers felt in response to hearing Larison was forced to remove his USMC decals while other residents were allowed to keep their Obama stickers: Confusion about why only one of those two types of decals could be tolerated, and confusion about the scant detail given on both posts (an aspect that didn't stop them from being shared cumulatively hundreds of thousands of times in 2014). Who issued the warning letter to Larison, and under what authority? Where did this happen? When did it happen?

Both articles sourced a CNN video which supported some of the claims. Larison and his lawyer explained that a homeowners association (HOA) — not the local, state, or federal government (or any other government entity) — had threatened the fines:

Still, why were other neighbors allowed to keep Obama stickers while Larison was cited? CNN explained it wasn't the case that the vehicles of other residents of the community in which Larison resided at the time of the controversy sported Obama stickers, and those decals were singled out as the one allowable type of car decal. Rather, a vehicle with an Obama campaign sticker was cited as a single example, among several others, of cars that were supposedly in violation the homeowners association's "no decal" policy but didn't trigger warnings to their owners. One automobile decal touted a law school alma mater, another expressed a preference for Titleist golf products, and yet another supported the 2008 Obama/Biden ticket:

We have the Dallas Fraternal Order of Police. We found another car in the neighborhood there that showed a photo of Obama and Biden '08. Then we found this one here, this is my personal favorite, because I'm a golfer, Frank, I'd rather be driving a Titleist. And then we found another one that said, Virginia Law School and that was a huge one right there in the center of the car. So, this seems pretty hypocritical to me. Did any of those people get letters?

The fact that one sticker in question was a 2008 Obama campaign decal highlights an important fact left out of articles about this controversy that were published in 2014: the events described took place in 2009. Why a minor dispute between a homeowner and an homeowners association that occurred a half-decade ago suddenly became a widespread political issue in late 2014 isn't clear, but the story gained some pretty intense traction from just two reposts.

When the story first aired in 2009 on CNN, Kyra Phillips conducted a telephone interview with a representative of the homeowners association's board. Art Bradford tried to explain he himself was not anti-Marine, and it was the number of USMC decals on Larison's car that was at issue, before he was cut off multiple times by Phillips:

PHILLIPS: So, here's my question — you know, we've seen Frank's car. We see all his stickers. We also see a number of other cars in your neighborhood with decals as well. What do you think about these rules? They seem pretty silly, don't they?

BRADFORD: Well, I'm — about the rules, the rules are rules. We all live by rules on this world we live in nowadays. And it's like I told the Channel 4 News crew that was here the other day, our world is chaotic enough without rules. So, if we didn't have rules, imagine how chaotic it really would be so ...

PHILLIPS: But nobody else got a letter in the neighborhood. There's a number of other cars with a bunch of decals, and they didn't receive a letter. They haven't been told that they'd have to pay a fine or that their car would be towed. Frank's the only guy here that's been reprimanded.

BRADFORD: Well, first off, it had nothing to do with it being Marine stickers, of the Marines. I am full in favor of every person that serves for our military. They — they sacrificed more than I can even imagine. So, with that said, you know, the fact is that this was blown way out of proportion because it had nothing to do with it being Marine stickers. We didn't send it out to him because he was —

PHILLIPS: But that was never mentioned, Art. I mean, nobody else has received a letter. No one else has been told they'd be fined or their car would be towed. Nothing was mentioned about the fact that these were military stickers. The fact is, Frank is being cornered on this one and we can't seem to get a hold of your president, Dorenda Hardy.

You are speaking out. What I want to know are you going to stick everybody to these rules or are you going to drop these silly rules and let Frank have his decals like everybody else in the neighborhood has their decals?

BRADFORD: First off, we're not a neighborhood. We're only a small complex. We probably have 70 units here.

PHILLIPS: All right, the cars in the complex there, are you going to drop the rules, can Frank keep his stickers like everybody else?

BRADFORD: Well, back up, first off, OK? Now, if we were talking about one sticker that was on a vehicle like you showed on all the other vehicles out there, one Titleist sticker, a one Obama sticker, we may not be talking — we wouldn't be having this conversation, probably.

PHILLIPS: Actually, there's a couple stickers on some of the cars as we are looking at right now. So it's not just an issue of one sticker.

BRADFORD: I'm not looking at the cars that you're referring to, so —

PHILLIPS: All right. Well, I tell you what, why don't you check out all the other cars in the neighborhood. Frank, we support you. Thank you for serving our country.

In addition to leaving out the detail that this story is rather outdated since it describes events that took place back in 2009, current reposts of the brouhaha fail to mention the situation was resolved almost as quickly as it began. After the issue prompted national media attention and a challenge by Larison's lawyer, the homeowners association dropped its request that the USMC decals be removed from Larison's car. For some reason, that update didn't make it into later resurrections of the story.

Last updated:   21 November 2014

David Mikkelson founded the site now known as snopes.com back in 1994.

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