The captain of the Enterprise is in hot water for appearing in controversial videos broadcast aboard ship. I know what you’re thinking – Spock planted cameras in the Captain’s quarters to study the mating rituals he seems so effortlessly skilled at, Uhura accidentally put them on the ship’s viewscreen instead of the latest threats from the Romulan High Command, and now Starfleet is hauling Kirk back to Earth so they can rake him over the coals.
But no, this is the real captain of the real aircraft carrier Enterprise. He made the videos back in 2006 and 2007, when he was the executive officer (the Spock role, for sci-fi geeks trying to keep this story in perspective.) Captain Owen Honors is under investigation for ribald and frequently offensive videos he broadcast aboard ship during the Enterprise’s last Middle East deployment. According to contemporaneous statements from Honors, the captain at the time was not aware of these hijinks.
The Associated Press describes the offending videos as a mixture of “gay slurs, suggestive shower scenes, and mimicked masturbation,” which a female former crew member brushed off as “no worse than anything you’d see on Saturday Night Live or The Family Guy.” Navy brass apparently are not fans of either program, at least not when staged by the executive officer of an aircraft carrier.
These videos sound like an officer with a frat-boy sense of humor trying to get a chuckle out of his crew. Unfortunately, the Navy can’t quietly tolerate frat boys attaining the rank Honors has achieved. A Navy spokesman explained to the Washington Post that production of such videos “was not acceptable then, and are not acceptable in today’s Navy… Those in command are charged to lead by example, and are held accountable for setting the proper tone and upholding the standards of honor, courage, and commitment that we expect sailors to exemplify.”
The anti-gay slurs in the video got the heat turned up fast. The Navy’s initial statement on the matter dismissed the videos as “humorous skits focusing the crew’s attention on specific issues, such as port visits, traffic safety, water conservation, ship cleanliness, etc.” They quickly changed their tune and announced an investigation, to the applause of gay-rights groups, including the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, whose mission statement declares them “dedicated to ending discrimination against, and harassment of, military personnel affected by ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.’” Time magazine thinks Honors will lose command of the Enterprise over the incident.
On the other hand, Enterprise crew members interviewed by CBS News spoke up in defense of Honors, calling the videos “welcome entertainment on board.” They’ve even started a Facebook group in support of him. Female Navy pilot Lt. Carey Lohrenz said Honors is “an exceptional leader, an exceptional aviator.” AOL News offers highlights of his service history that support Lt. Lohrenz’ assessment: Honors is a Top Gun graduate who’s flown 85 combat missions in the Persian Gulf, Iraq, and Yugoslavia. The salad bar of medals on his chest includes the Legion of Merit, Bronze Star, Joint Meritorious Service Medal, Air Medals, and Meritorious Service Medal.
Captain Honors is not a man the United States military can afford to dismiss lightly. It’s unfortunate that he spent so much time dismissing things lightly in front of video cameras aboard the Enterprise. Nobody knows why these five-year-old videos are surfacing now, only a few weeks before that mighty carrier returns to the Middle East. The career of its Captain shouldn’t end because he used Navy cameras to film the kind of raunchy stuff Fox loves to pour into animated comedies on Sunday night. Nobody wins a Bronze Start with his sense of humor. This is “heartfelt apology” territory, not the “heavy-hearted resignation” badlands. We need him on the bridge, and away from the closed-circuit TV studio.