The Navy permanently removed Capt. Owen Honors as commander of the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise today for what an admiral called an "exceptional lack of judgment" in making controversial videos when he served as the carrier's executive officer four years ago.
The announcement that Honors was being removed from command was made by Admiral John C. Harvey Jr., Commander of Fleet Forces Command in Norfolk, Virginia.
Harvey said Honors' "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." The admiral said naval officers are "held to a higher standard" and "our leaders must be above reproach and our Sailors deserve nothing less."
He said Honors is being replaced because of "the inappropriate actions demonstrated in the videos."
Honors is being replaced as the carrier's commander by Capt. Dee Mewbourne, who most recently commanded the carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower. Mewbourne will command the ship when it sails for a deployment to the Middle East in two weeks.
The loss of confidence in Honor's ability to lead came about after raunchy videos he produced as an Enterprise officer in 2007 were leaked to a Virginia newspaper.
Honors is not expected to be kicked out of the Navy, but losing command of the carrier will surely end his career advancement. For now, Honors has been reassigned to administrative duties at the Naval base at Norfolk.
Harvey said the investigation into the production of Honors' videos will continue and "look at all aspects of the production of the videos, to include the actions of other senior officers who knew of the videos and the actions they took in response."
In the videos, Honors appears to acknowledge that his superiors would consider the videos objectionable. The captain opened two videos released today by looking directly into the camera and saying, "As usual, the captain and the admiral, they don't know anything at all about the content of the video and the movie this evening and they should absolutely not be held accountable in any judicial setting."
Before the series of raunchy videos he produced years ago leaked to a Virginia newspaper and made him famous, or more accurately infamous, Honors was known within the ranks as a popular officer and a decorated Top Gun aviator.
"He's a fantastic guy. He is an icon in the F-14 community, known for his professionalism in the airplane and his joie de vivre out of the airplane," said Ward Carroll, who served with the captain in an F-14 training squadron nearly two decades ago, and is now the editor of Military.com. Despite his endorsement of Honors, Carroll made it clear he believed the videos went too far.
"When you look at the video, there is no doubt he was way over the line," Carroll said in an interview with ABC News.
The videos, produced in 2006-2007 when Honors was the No. 2 officer aboard the Enterprise, show him introducing and starring in often lewd skits about life onboard the mammoth ship. They were broadcast on closed-circuit television shipwide almost weekly in an attempt to raise morale during long and stressful deployments at sea. The videos appear to have been tolerated by the ship's commanding officer at the time.