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Navy officer who used gay slurs in sexually suggestive video to be relieved of command

By DENA POTTER and PAULINE JELINEK, Associated Press

NORFOLK, Va. -- A high-ranking Navy officer who produced and showed raunchy videos to the crew of an aircraft carrier three or four years ago is expected to be relieved of his command of the ship, defense officials said Tuesday.

A senior defense official said the announcement on Capt. Owen Honors of the USS Enterprise was expected Tuesday afternoon. The officials said the Navy has chosen a commander to replace Honors on the nuclear-powered ship that is currently stationed in Norfolk and scheduled to deploy to the Middle East this month.

The officials revealed the plans for Honors only on the grounds of anonymity because no official announcement has yet been made.

No phone listing was immediately available for Honors and he did not respond to e-mails.

The offending video shown in 2007 became public this weekend, proving an embarrassment to the Pentagon.

The videos released by a newspaper in this Navy port city feature Honors using gay slurs, pantomiming masturbation and staging suggestive shower scenes. They were played on the shipwide television system during weekly movie night when Honors was executive officer, or second in command, of the Enterprise. Honors has since become commander of the ship.

Over the weekend, the Navy at first downplayed the videos as "humorous skits," then called them "not acceptable" and said they were under investigation.

The videos' existence was not news to Navy higher-ups. In a statement to the Virginian-Pilot on Friday, the Navy said its leadership had put a stop to videos with "inappropriate content" on the Enterprise about four years ago.

Michael Corgan, a career Navy officer who now teaches at Boston University, said before the news that Honors would be relieved that he was guilty not only of an error in judgment but of failing to recognize a changing Navy culture.

"Standards shift, of course, and trimming your sails is something you have to do if you're going to command people in the Navy," Corgan said. "This guy showed poor judgment."

The military has undergone a cultural shift in recent decades away from the loutish, frat-boy behavior that was exposed by the Tailhook scandal in 1991. It is now working to accommodate gays in its ranks with Congress' repeal of "don't ask, don't tell." Also, the Navy is opening its all-male submarine force to women this year.

Corgan said the repeal of don't ask, don't tell probably had nothing to do with the furor now: "What he did would have been dumb 30, 40 years ago."

Some sailors who served on the Enterprise have taken to Facebook to defend Honors and his video skits for providing a much-needed morale boost during long deployments at sea.

They portrayed Honors as a man who genuinely cared about his sailors and helped them blow off steam with corny and occasionally outrageous videos he concocted every week during six-month tours of duty in the Middle East at the height of the Iraq War. Maintaining morale is typically part of the XO's job.

"He was a caring professional and, yes, he has a sense of humor, but you need that on a boat," said Misty Davis, who served on the Enterprise from 2006 to 2010. The offending video was shown in 2007, and was a compilation of previous videos he had shown, she and others said.

"It's no worse than anything you'd see on 'Saturday Night Live' or 'The Family Guy,'" Davis said Monday. "I used to watch all of them. They were freaking hilarious."

Pauline Jelinek reported from Washington.

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