Image: The USS Enterprise
Steve Helber  /  AP
The nuclear powered aircraft carrier USS Enterprise sits along the pier at the Naval Station Norfolk in Norfolk, Va., on Jan. 4. The Navy permanently removed senior officer Capt. Owen Honors from command of vessel because of raunchy videos he made and showed to the crew several years ago.
updated 1/5/2011 9:11:58 PM ET 2011-01-06T02:11:58

Defense officials said Wednesday that investigators will likely question those who served as Capt. Owen Honors' superior officers at the time he was making a series of lewd videos aboard a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier.

The Navy relieved Honors of command of the USS Enterprise on Tuesday, days after the videos surfaced. Honors was second in command of the warship in 2006 and 2007, when he produced, starred in and showed the satirical videos, which included slurs against gays and suggestive shower scenes.

Story: Navy relieves officer over lewd videos

Navy officials declined Wednesday to identify those being questioned in the probe. But several defense officials, who all spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the case publicly, said that investigators could potentially question two of the Enterprise's top commanders from 2006-2007 and two commanders of the strike group the carrier sailed with during that period.

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Rear Adm. Lawrence Rice commanded the Enterprise from December 2004 to May 2007 and Rear Adm. Ron Horton commanded the ship from mid-May 2007 to May 2010. Rear Adm. Raymond Spicer commanded the Enterprise carrier strike group from August 2005 to February 2007 and Vice Adm. Daniel Holloway commanded the strike group from February 2007 to August 2008.

The four could not be reached for comment on Wednesday.

It was unclear when the videos were aired. Officials said they were trying to determine who among the senior Navy leadership knew about the videos when they were shown repeatedly to thousands of crew members aboard the nation's oldest nuclear-powered aircraft carrier.

The Navy said earlier that Honors had been dealt with regarding the videos several years ago. But it was not clear whether he was reprimanded and, if so, whether that was done in writing. Officials have said privately that it would be nearly unthinkable for Honors to have been promoted and given command of the ship if he had received a written reprimand.

Enterprise due to ship out
The videos were obtained by the Virginian-Pilot newspaper in Norfolk and portions have been broadcast repeatedly on television news programs since the weekend. The Navy on Tuesday announced that Honors was stepping down as ship commander and being reassigned to administrative duties ashore.

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The Navy needed to act quickly, if it was to act at all, because the Enterprise is scheduled to deploy this month to the Middle East to support combat operations in Afghanistan.

Many sailors aboard the ship at the time have defended Honors on Facebook postings, contending he was simply providing a much-needed morale boost during long deployments at sea. Senior military officials said the video showed an extreme lack of judgment and undermined his ability to command.

Meanwhile, more bawdy shipboard videos made by Honors surfaced Wednesday.

The Navy Times, which posted the videos on its website, said it received them anonymously in the mail.

Honors has not spoken publicly about the videos. The new ones include a scene in which he talks to an officer he identifies as a staffer for the admiral in charge of the USS Enterprise carrier strike group.

Spicing up the videos
Honors also acknowledged that the taped skits meant as entertainment for the carrier crew had drawn some complaints. He was executive officer, or second in command, at the time and advanced to commander of the ship this year.

Some of the more recently released videos were made during the Enterprise's deployment to the Persian Gulf, where it went twice during the height of the Iraq war.

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In one, Honors is shown surveying crew members to get their ideas on how he can spice up his videos after complaints that they've lost their edge. He uses a profane term to express that sentiment.

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One crew member suggests he pose in a thong, while another suggests more sexual images.

The next image shows what appears to be Honors' head superimposed atop a picture of Sacha Baron Cohen's thong-wearing "Borat" character flanked by women in bathing suits.

Crew members who served with Honors have rushed to his defense, saying he used the raunchy videos to also deliver serious lessons to crew members on ship's operations.

The military has said it called for a stop to the videos at the time but has not explained why it only reprimanded Honors three years later.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Video: Man overboard: Navy officer fired over lewd videos

  1. Transcript of: Man overboard: Navy officer fired over lewd videos

    BRIAN WILLIAMS, anchor: We return now to the story that started off our broadcast last night. We reported that the captain of an aircraft carrier in the US Navy had been temporarily relieved of his command because of those onboard ship videos that have surfaced that the Navy is not happy about. Well, tonight temporary has become permanent. Our Pentagon correspondent Jim Miklaszewski with us again tonight with an update on this story. Jim , good evening.

    JIM MIKLASZEWSKI reporting: Good evening, Brian . By all accounts Captain Owen Honors was still a rising star in the Navy , but only three days after the public release of those controversial videos, it all came crashing down today. After a 28 year Navy career, Captain Owen Honors was informed only minutes before the Navy announced he was relieved of his command of the USS Enterprise . In a punishing public statement, Admiral John Harvey said he had lost confidence in Honors ' ability to lead.

    Admiral JOHN HARVEY (United States Fleet Forces Commander): His profound lack of good judgment and professionalism while previously serving as executive officer in Enterprise calls into question his character and undermines his credibility to continue to serve effectively in command.

    Captain OWEN HONORS: There's a really good chance you're going to be offended tonight.

    MIKLASZEWSKI: It was this series of salacious videos, containing simulated sex acts and gay bashing shot aboard the Enterprise four to five years ago, that brought Captain Honors down.

    Adm. HARVEY: He is being held accountable for the poor judgment and inappropriate actions repeatedly demonstrated in those videos.

    MIKLASZEWSKI: Honors was replaced immediately by Captain Dee Mewbourne , who will now command the Enterprise on its upcoming mission to the war in Afghanistan in a couple of weeks. Despite today's firing, thousands of Honors ' supporters are lighting up Facebook , many of them many sailors who say videos like those produced by Honors offer a much needed break from the wars. But Navy officers, past and present, say the issue here is all about judgment than leadership.

    Rear Admiral STEPHEN PIETROPAOLI, Retired, (United States Navy): It's not about being the crew's pal. It is about motivating the crew. This Ex. O. clearly has a great sense of humor. There's folks that are going to relate to that. But his principle job is not to be the ship's comedian, it's to be the ship's executive officer.

    MIKLASZEWSKI: The Navy 's investigation does not stop here. Investigators now want to know why Honors ' senior commanders, who knew about these videos four years ago, didn't take formal disciplinary action against him at the time. Instead, Honors was eventually promoted to the ship's commander. Now, Captain Honors has been temporarily assigned to a desk job pending the outcome of the Navy 's investigation, but Navy officials predict that today's action marks the beginning of the end to an otherwise stellar career. Brian :

    WILLIAMS: All right, Jim , thanks. Jim Miklaszewski with our update from the Pentagon tonight.

Timeline: Military scandals

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