An Impassioned Defense of Capt. Owen P. Honors

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Earlier today, I was reading about the Navy's lewd videotape scandal when my phone rang. Total serendipity--it was Pete Clark! Longtime readers of this blog will recall that Pete was the profane sailor who'd served under Eric Massa and made a memorable appearance in the item I wrote when Massa tickled and groped his way out of Congress last year ("Eric Massa's Navy Files"). Pete's the guy who introduced "snorkeling" into the political lexicon. "Meat-gazing," too. Pete is to profanity what Mozart is to music. You have to marvel.


Turns out that in addition to knowing Eric Massa he's good friends with Captain Owen P. Honors of the USS Enterprise, the same guy who made the videotapes that are all over the news and was relieved of his command today. Apparently, Pete is plugged in to every sex scandal in the Navy. He was furious because he felt the media was railroading his friend O.P. [Capt. Honors] and ignoring the other side of the story. He'd just finished up a hit on the "Today Show" where Matt Lauer had cut him off before he was finished defending Honors. I told Pete I'd air his full-throated defense, provided he keep it clean, or as clean as he could manage. Our lightly edited conversation is after the jump.

"I grew up with O.P. in Syracuse," Pete told me. "He was my brother's best friend growing up. I know both of these people very well, Massa and O.P. Honors. I've never met a person that's never not loved the guy [O.P. not Massa], from high school till now. Even the crew.
    "Dude, there's a whole story behind the friggin' political correctness and how it's friggin' ruining this country. We're relieving the most beloved aircraft carrier captain I've ever heard of, in my life--and I know a lot of people in the Navy--he's being relieved for a bunch of videos that were misrepresented because they were all cut and spooled together. See, the crew LOVED this guy. Loved him. So if you read any of these people who served with him on Facebook--black, white, female, male, gay, straight--gay people are like, 'He was great, we loved him!' It's unbelievable."
    I said I hadn't realized Honors had gay supporters.
    "Dude, there's gay people on the support website supporting him! Because it was a joke! It was a spoof! It was a series of tapes over an entire deployment! So then they cut 'em into, like, the funniest parts, which obviously everyone else would think was insane, and someone turned in this video, and it looks bad, but it's not! Not when it's been fully examined. But the bottom line is, he got relieved."
    That's true.
    "The investigation that's being done, I mean everyone's covering the story, but they're covering it on its face and they're not digging in about how these tapes were made, why they were made. All they're doing is looking at these clips from the tape."
    Yeah...
    "Here's a perfect example [of what I'm talking about]. Have you ever seen the movie 'Brokeback Mountain'? It's kind of weird I'm using it as an example, but have you ever seen 'Brokeback Mountain'?" 
    Actually, no. 
    "I know you don't want to admit to it, you liberal. You pole-smoker! You can't even say 'pole-smoker' anymore without getting fired! What a fucking joke. Snorkeler! You can't say snorkeler." 
    Yes, you can. That made it everywhere, even "Saturday Night Live" (click to view clip). 
    "But here's the deal. In 'Brokeback Mountain,' there's parts of that movie where they're makin' out, and basically gettin' it on with each other--it's very aggressive--and if somebody just took clips of that they would think that that was what the movie was all about, and no one would have seen it. And it's actually about these two guys who are in love with each other, which--whatever. But the thing is, no one would go see the movie if you just took the clips! So that's all they did from these series of [Navy] movies over five or six months. They took these clips, and, you know, it was an ongoing story that they were telling. Ships are a really stressful environment. There's 24/7 around the clock launching of aircraft, bomb-making, fixing the bombs in the ships. On the deck it's completely dangerous. People are stressed out. And the only thing they look forward to is this movie night with the X.O. [executive officer] because before they show the movie, the X.O. usually passes the word about what's going on for the week, and O.P. is genius enough to come up with a way to do it via skits, like water conservation, things of that nature. The crew loved it! Because the previous X.O.s, all they ever did was, like, read off a freaking teleprompter or read their notes. O.P. did these skits that the crew loved! And they got ratted out for it, four years after when he had command of another ship!"
    That part is odd.
    "Dude, this is the first casualty of the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell! You take this political correct bullshit, you take Major Hassan [the Ft. Hood shooter, who Pete believes wasn't stopped because of political correctness], you take a couple other things and it leads to real degradation of the military, it really does."
    Okay, but the media and the senior Navy officers who punished Honors weren't acting as theater critics, they weren't objecting because the movies were taken out of context, they were saying the objectionable parts are objectionable in any context, especially from a commanding officer.
    "Yeah, because one or two people got offended. The rest of the crew loved it. You can't please all of the people all the time. We're now to the point where we're willing to take a guy, a senior, very well respected naval captain who's put 27 years in, who's commanded a fire squadron, a command ship, and the carrier itself, he's gone through all the wickets, all the boards and everything right, and after a video four years ago--four years ago!--that everybody knew about, they're firing him now?! It's ridiculous. No one in the civilian world would run an operation like this.
    "The bottom line is, they're trying to run the military like it's a corporation and it's not, because you don't live, breathe, eat on a ship six months at a time in your building. And if you did, you'd certainly change your rules. It's a joke!
    "Did you see my interview with Matt Lauer? As soon as I went to the politically correct point on the 13 people dead in Ft. Hood, he like changed the subject. He's such a p-- You know, I fucking crushed him. I'm mean, he's a good guy, and he was being fair, but I got my point across, didn't I?
    I think so. Did you ever hear from Massa?
    "No. He's a clown. But you don't think there's any traction here with this story about the politically correct bullshit?"
    I'll make sure your views get aired, promise.
    "Alright, dude. I gotta go. Supposedly Diane Sawyer's trying to get in touch with me."

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Joshua Green is a former senior editor at The Atlantic.

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