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The former carrier commander fired for producing and starring in controversial shipboard videos says the films were made with the "affirmative and tacit approval of senior Navy leadership," according to an official statement the former skipper, Capt. Owen Honors, provided to investigators.
Honors, who produced the videos while he was executive officer of the carrier Enterprise in 2006 and 2007, wrote that the ship's two commanding officers, two strike group admirals "and myriad other senior military and civilian distinguished visitors" were aware of the videos.
Honors also wrote that the videos often came up during Sunday meetings with the ship's CO and other warfare commanders, and the discussion "just about always" involved "the content of the previous ‘XO Movie Night' skit."
"I have also had many one-on-one conversations with each of the senior officers mentioned above about the ‘XO Movie Night' skits," Honors wrote in the 15-page statement, signed and dated Jan. 12 and obtained by Navy Times. "Their acknowledgement of the videos indicated their awareness of the videos, their knowledge of individual video contents evidenced their viewing of the videos, and their consistent encouraging feedback constituted approval and affirmation that my conduct was within acceptable Navy standards as the ship's executive officer."
He also wrote that he was "neither formally counseled nor told to stop producing the videos," which puts him at odds with Navy officials who said Honors was told to stop in early 2007.
The document provides the first comments by Honors, who has not spoken publicly since The (Norfolk, Va.) Virginian-Pilot posted a story and the videos online Jan. 1. Adm. John Harvey, head of Fleet Forces Command, launched an investigation into the circumstances under which the videos were produced, fired Honors Jan. 4 and said he would be examining the actions of Honors' senior officers at the time.
If Honors' allegations are true, the claims in the signed and sworn statement increase the chances that his bosses at the time could be disciplined or, at the very least, highly embarrassed.
Two men commanded the ship when Honors was XO: then-Capts. Larry Rice and Ron Horton. Both are now rear admirals. Rice's scheduled Feb. 1 retirement has been placed on hold pending the outcome of the investigation.
Two carrier strike group commanders were also aboard during the time span: retired Rear Adm. Raymond Spicer, and now-Vice Adm. Daniel Holloway, commander of 2nd Fleet.
Honors' statement, however, draws an even wider circle around those he said were in the know. Honors said the admiral who led the embarked training strike group, several senior destroyer squadron commodores and air wing commanders — among the "myriad" other senior visitors — also were fully aware of and approved of the videos.
The commander of Strike Force Training Atlantic during Honors' tour as Enterprise XO was Rear Adm. Richard O'Hanlon, now commander of Naval Air Force Atlantic.
Requests for comment to O'Hanlon and Holloway were forwarded to Fleet Forces Command.
"All of the principle figures in this investigation are cooperating fully with investigators," command spokesman Cmdr. Chris Sims said Jan. 28. "We will not discuss the specifics because this is an ongoing investigation."
Rice and Horton did not respond to e-mail queries for comment, and Spicer and Honors could not be reached.
The concept was born, Honors wrote, when the ship's public affairs officer told him he was "required" to choose the film to be featured on "XO Movie Night." Honors said he wanted to explain his choice to the crew, and the explanations evolved into the skits, which relied on "both bluntness and humor" to inform the crew about important shipboard topics, as well as to boost morale.
About 50 of the videos, all starring Honors, were created; one was aired on one of the carrier's TV channels just before the feature film "every Saturday night at sea during work-ups and while on deployment," he wrote. Honors called the bits "wildly successful," saying they were "extremely popular" with the crew.
Honors' contention that he was never told by higher-ups to stop producing the videos puts him at odds with official Navy statements at the time of his firing, which said production of the videos ended "immediately after being addressed by Navy leadership."
When asked to comment on the disparity, spokesman Sims said that "the answer to this question will be determined by the information that will be obtained by the ongoing investigation. It would be inappropriate to speculate on any possible outcomes of the investigation."
Harvey, in his statement to the media after firing Honors, explained why he thought the former skipper had crossed the line.
After watching the videos, Harvey decided to fire Honors for "demonstrating exceptionally poor judgment," saying "his profound lack of good judgment and professionalism … calls into question his character, and undermines his credibility to continue to serve effectively in command."
Who leaked the videos or why has not been determined. But near the end of the statement, Honors wrote that he thinks the source was a punished crew member seeking revenge.
"I believe I know the identity of the person or persons," Honors wrote, adding that the leaks were an attempt to "shift the focus" from misconduct for which Honors had already imposed nonjudicial punishment "and for which investigation for further misconduct with a view toward court-martial was already underway. If I am correct … then the miscreant was successful in removing me from command in furtherance of a personal agenda."
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