The commander of a U.S. Navy aircraft carrier has been relieved of duty after a video was made public in which he is seen in a variety of skits involving partial nudity, simulated masturbation and derogatory comments about homosexuals. The issue has received extensive coverage in the American media since the four-year-old video surfaced on Sunday.
Navy Captain Owen Honors was relieved of command for behavior his boss, Admiral John Harvey, said "calls into question his character and completely undermines his credibility to continue to serve effectively in command."
"I have lost confidence in his ability to lead effectively, to command Enterprise. He is being held accountable for the poor judgment and inappropriate actions repeatedly demonstrated in those videos," he said.
Tuesday's announcement followed 48 hours of searing publicity about the videos, which were part of a series designed to entertain sailors and marines on board the USS Enterprise when Captain Honors was its second officer in 2006 and 2007. The videos, intended as comedy, include vulgar language and gestures, partially nude men and women in showers, simulated masturbation and other skits that Pentagon Spokesman Colonel David Lapan calls "inappropriate."
"Being relieved of command is a very serious repercussion because as you rise up in the ranks more is expected of you and you are held to a higher standard," he said.
Captain Honors was assigned to command the Enterprise last year, and was in the final stages of preparing the huge vessel, its crew of nearly 6,000 and dozens of aircraft for deployment to the Indian Ocean to support allied military operations in Afghanistan. The captain is a decorated Navy fighter pilot, with 85 combat missions.
Some of Captain Honors' former colleagues have defended him, saying he was an excellent commander and the videos were all in good fun. But a retired former colleague of the captain's, Ward Carroll, now editor of military.com, says senior Navy leaders made the right decision to fire his old friend.
"He's undermined his ability to render discipline around a number of matters - gender integration, fairness, use of extreme language in professional situations - all of that sort of thing. It's impossible for him to lead that ship anymore," he said.
Carroll says the commander of a Navy ship has a huge responsibility, including the discipline of his crew, and must himself be above reproach. Carroll says the captain's former commanders should also be investigated for having allowed such conduct, and indeed the Navy's investigation of the videos is continuing.
Captain Honors has been assigned to administrative duties, and will likely leave the Navy soon.