Published January 04, 2011
Capt. Owen Honors was relieved of duty Tuesday as commander of the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise after he broadcast sexually charged videos taken aboard the ship, the Navy announced.
The videos, distributed on closed-circuit television during 2006 and 2007 deployments of the USS Enterprise, the Navy's oldest nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, showed simulated masturbation, suggestive shower scenes with multiple women and gay slurs.
The Virginian-Pilot newspaper broke the story, publishing edited versions of the lewd videos on its website. The Navy Times released two additional lewd videos on its website Tuesday.
Adm. John C. Harvey Jr., commander of United States Fleet Forces Command, said Honors' performance as commanding officer has been without incident but his "poor judgment" while serving as executive officer of the ship was inexcusable.
"After personally reviewing the videos created while serving as executive officer, I have lost confidence in Capt. Honors' ability to lead effectively, and he is being held accountable for poor judgment and the inappropriate actions demonstrated in the videos that were created while he served as executive officer on Enterprise," said Harvey.
"His profound lack of good judgment and professionalism while previously serving as executive officer on Enterprise calls into question his character and completely undermines his credibility to continue to serve effectively in command," Harvey added.
Capt. Dee Mewbourne will be permanently assigned as the commanding officer of the Enterprise.
Navy officials said Honors will not be kicked out of the service, though it is possible later on, pending results of a longer investigation, that he could be asked to leave the Navy.
Honors attended the Naval Academy and taught at the Navy's Top Gun flight school.
The videos were played repeatedly on board the ship. In one scene, Honors can be seen fishing for a chocolate candy bar in a dirty toilet right before eating it on camera. In another he appears in a towel and shower cap outside the stall where two men are seen washing each other. In the next clip, which Honors calls "Chicks in the Shower," two women are seen washing each other. No nudity is shown, although the viewer is led to believe they are naked.
Honors warns the viewers the material is offensive. "Over the years I've gotten complaints about inappropriate material during these videos, never to me personally but, gutlessly through other channels," Honors says in the introduction to one video. After using a derogatory slur for gays he calls out the "bleeding heart" critics, telling them to "go ahead and hug yourself for the next 20 minutes or so, because there's really a good chance you're gonna be offended."
Honors does have his supporters. A Facebook page quoted ex-shipmen saying sketches done by Honors on movie nights were "hilarious."
But critics said not only should Honors be relieved of duty, Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, should face scrutiny since he was chief of naval operations while the misconduct occurred.
"Then-CNO Adm. Mullen did not have command authority over the Enterprise, but his rank as CNO invested in him the responsibility to maintain high standards of morale and discipline in the entire Navy. Adm. Mullen failed to discharge this duty with regard to the Enterprise, and members of Congress should hold him accountable. Either Adm. Mullen knew what was happening on the Enterprise, or he did not know about the breakdown in discipline occurring on his watch. Which scenario is worse?" asked Elaine Donnelly, president of the Center for Military Readiness.
Donnelly, whose organization opposes repeal of the "don't ask, don't tell" law, said Honors' behavior -- and that of the junior officers who participated in the videos -- is "unacceptable" and the offenses are as bad as those "that ruined the careers of countless naval officers (in) the infamous Tailhook scandal involving aviators in 1991."
But she said Honors' actions and his own statements scorning subordinates who complained about the videos suggest that refining discipline "downward" through repeal of the 1993 law on openly gay service will only add to more indiscipline.
"Contrary to assurances that standards of conduct will remain high, and that 'leadership' and sensitivity training can 'mitigate' the consequences of human failings, this embarrassing episode demonstrates how discipline can be incrementally redefined downward, lowering standards for all," Donnelly said. "Adm. Mullen and like-minded allies in the White House, Pentagon and Congress are inviting trouble that cannot be 'mitigated' by wishful thinking alone."
Without citing the military's new policy, Harvey said commanders must lead through personal example, a responsibility written into Navy regulations.
"It is fact that as naval officers we are held to a higher standard. Those in command must exemplify the Navy's core values of honor, courage and commitment which we expect our sailors to follow. Our leaders must be above reproach and our sailors deserve nothing less," he said.
It was a bad year for commanding officers in 2010. The Navy Times reported that 17 COs were fired last year for conduct unbecoming of an officer -- the second highest number of firings in a decade.
Meanwhile, the Enterprise is scheduled to deploy before the end of this month.
Fox News' Justin Fishel contributed to this report.