Norfolk, Jan 04 (Agencies): Raunchy comedy videos made by a high-ranking Navy commander and shown to the crew of an aircraft carrier three or four years ago have suddenly proved an embarrassment to the Pentagon that could blight the officer's career.

The videos, released on Sunday by a newspaper in this Navy port city, feature Capt Owen Honors using gay slurs, pantomiming masturbation and staging suggestive shower scenes.

They were played on the shipwide television system during weekly movie night when Honors was executive officer, or second in command, of the USS Enterprise. Honors has since become commander of the ship and several of those under his command are defending him.

Over the weekend, the Navy at first downplayed the videos as "humorous skits," then called them "not acceptable" and said they are under investigation.

Asked if Honors' command of the Enterprise was at risk, Cmdr Chris Sims of US Fleet Forces Command said: "The investigation currently being conducted will provide the necessary information to make that decision in an informed manner."

The videos' existence was not news to Navy higher-ups. In a statement to the Virginian-Pilot on Friday, the Navy said its leadership had put a stop to videos with "inappropriate content" on the Enterprise about four years ago.

"They were probably hoping it would all go away, and it didn't and now they have to say something," said Michael Corgan, a career Navy officer who now teaches at Boston University.

Corgan said Honors was guilty not only of an error in judgment but of failing to recognise a changing Navy culture. "Standards shift, of course, and trimming your sails is something you have to do if you're going to command people in the Navy," Corgan said. "This guy showed poor judgment."

"He was a caring professional and, yes, he has a sense of humor, but you need that on a boat," said Misty Davis, who served on the Enterprise from 2006 to 2010, expressing her support. The offending video was shown in 2007, and was a compilation of previous videos he had shown, she and others said.

"It's no worse than anything you'd see on `Saturday Night Live' or `The Family Guy,'" Davis said on Monday. "I used to watch all of them. They were freaking hilarious."
The Enterprise is in port in Norfolk and is awaiting deployment.

The Virginian-Pilot of Norfolk first reported on the videos on Saturday and posted a version Sunday on its website, minus offensive language, with the faces of some sailors blurred. It was unclear why the videos are just now surfacing.

The Pilot quoted unidentified crew members as saying they raised concerns aboard the ship about the videos when they aired but were brushed off.

Since the story broke, hundreds of current and past Enterprise crew members have created Facebook accounts to support Honors. Another site with far fewer "friends" condemns him and calls for his resignation.

"Capt Honors is a very professional person, but he knew when to have fun," Colorado native Jessica Zabawa wrote in an e-mail to the AP. She served on the Enterprise from 2007 to last September. "Capt. Honors knows when to be serious and when it's time to unwind."

The Navy put more emphasis on ethics and sexual harassment awareness after dozens of women complained they were groped and assaulted by drunken pilots at the 1991 convention in Las Vegas of the Tailhook Association, a group of naval aviators. Nearly 120 officers were implicated in various offenses.

The episode triggered the resignation of the Navy secretary and the early retirement of the chief of naval operations.

Ward Carroll, an aviator who flew with Honors, called the embattled officer "one of the good guys". However he said, "I was disappointed, both professionally and personally, that he wantonly and with great prejudice walked across the lines that exist."

A telephone listing for Honors was not immediately available. No one answered the door at his home on Monday. He is a 1983 graduate of the US Naval Academy and was a naval aviator before holding command. He attended the US Naval Fighter Weapons School, also known as Top Gun.

Adams, who worked in the Enterprise's nuclear reactor department, said, "I just don't want a good man to go down like this."