It is no surprise that the commanding officer of the USS Enterprise has taken the fall for the Pentagon's embarrassment following the disclosure of a tasteless video he produced for broadcast on the ship. But even more troubling than Capt. Owen Honors' bad judgment is the Navy's indifference until the video went viral.
Honors starred in the sexually explicit "XO Movie Night," the service's answer to The Hangover, and has been relieved of his command on the eve of the Enterprise's deployment to support combat missions in Afghanistan. The disciplinary action effectively ends the 49-year-old U.S. Naval Academy graduate's military career on a tawdry note. While Honors hardly comported himself as an officer and a gentleman, the Navy looked the other way for years and ignored complaints.
The video dates back to 2006-2007, when Honors served as the executive officer, or second in command, of the Enterprise, which carries a crew of 6,000 men and women. Yet the Navy took no action against the captain for more than three years — even promoting him to command the aircraft carrier. None of his superior officers saw their career fortunes affected by the scandal, either. Larry Rice, who served as the captain of the Enterprise during Honor's tenure as executive officer, was promoted to rear admiral. Two other officers, Rear Adm. Raymond Spencer (now retired) and Vice Adm. Daniel Halloway, now commander of the Second Fleet, only saw their careers enhanced.
It is beyond credulity that all three high-ranking officers could have lived aboard the USS Enterprise for two years and never been aware of "XO Movie Night," which was broadcast frequently. The Virginian-Pilot in Norfolk, which broke the story of the video, reported several crew members complained about the offensive material to the ship's leadership — apparently to no avail.
Had the Enterprise run aground or collided with another vessel due to the incompetence of a subordinate, the commanding officer of the ship, adhering to Navy tradition, would be held accountable and rightfully so. But not in this case. Tradition has its limits.
The discipline handed down to Honors has less to do with the questionable content of the actual video and everything to do with the fact that it became public and embarrassed the Navy. After the newspaper obtained a copy of it, the video wound up on the YouTube website, where more than 350,000 views of sailors behaving badly have been logged.
Honors has not lost his command for his effort to turn the USS Enterprise into an R-rated version of McHale's Navy. He lost it largely because of the burgeoning new media, where one's indiscretions can quickly jump ship onto the worldwide stage in the time it takes to tap a keyboard. Only then did the Navy wake up and do something about behavior by a commanding officer that never should have been tolerated in the first place.