Defense Secretary Robert Gates will not step into the growing controversy over lewd videos made and aired on the carrier USS Enterprise by a senior naval officer, a Pentagon spokesman said Monday.
The videos, which contain scenes of mock masturbation, a mock anal exam with a stick, gay-bashing and foul language featuring the F-bomb, were made by Capt. Owen Honors, a highly regarded naval officer who currently commands the Enterprise.
That kind of performance from a senior officer is "disappointing,'' Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said in a brief interview Monday. But Mullen stressed that he hadn't "seen all the facts.''
The videos were made in 2006 and 2007 and were obtained and made public Sunday by the Virginian-Pilot newspaper in Norfolk, Va., where the carrier is home-ported. At the time the videos were made, Honors was the ship's executive officer, effectively the second in command. The videos were shown on the ship's closed-circuit television channel.
Along with some 5,000 male and female sailors aboard the Enterprise at the time were the ship's skipper, now Rear Adm. Larry Rice, as well as a senior admiral in charge of the naval task force of seven warships that sailed with the carrier. In 2006 and 2007 that position was held by Rear Adm. Daniel P. Holloway, currently commander of the Navy's 2nd Fleet, and by Rear Adm. Raymond A. Spicer, who currently serves on the naval staff.
The Navy has said the videos "were not acceptable then and are not acceptable in today's Navy.'' But it has taken no action against Honors or others in the naval chain of command other than to announce that an investigation into the incident has been initiated.
Silence on the issue also reigned at the Pentagon, where a senior spokesman, Marine Col. Dave Lapan, said Gates has not gotten involved in the issue. "There's a very senior chain of command in the Navy that will take the action they feel necessary,'' Lapan said Monday. Lapan said that Gates, to his knowledge, had not expressed his views on the videos.
Honors, 49, is a 1983 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy. He was given command of the Enterprise in May, a highly prized assignment given that the Navy has only 11 carriers.
In this case, however, many in the Navy community have come to Honors' defense.
On one blog, a veteran wrote: "When we were out for extended periods and those 12 and 12s [duty hours] were starting to make tempers short, the officers would do things to lighten the load a bit. It's nothing new on a carrier to have some skits on the ships tv system that landlubbers would find offensive but sailors wouldn't. . . . This is a prime example of an over reaction by the politically correct crowd. Some day they'll get their collective heads out of their rear ends.''
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