Share

Acting Navy Secretary resigns after ousting captain, calling him “stupid”

Advertisements

you quit — Modly’s public condemnation of Crozier over the weekend drew immediate backlash. Kate Cox – Apr 7, 2020 8:18 pm UTC Enlarge / Thomas Modly, now the former acting secretary of the Navy, at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing in Washington, DC, on Tuesday, Dec. 3, 2019. Acting Secretary of the Navy…

you quit —

Modly’s public condemnation of Crozier over the weekend drew immediate backlash.


A serious man in a suit looks ashamed.

Enlarge / Thomas Modly, now the former acting secretary of the Navy, at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing in Washington, DC, on Tuesday, Dec. 3, 2019.

Acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas Modly resigned today amid blowback for his handling of a coronavirus outbreak aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt and the subsequent removal of its captain from command.

Modly offered his resignation earlier Tuesday, Politico reported, and Tuesday afternoon The Wall Street Journal was first to report that Acting Undersecretary of the Army James McPherson would supplant Modly in the role.

Modly relieved Captain Brett Crozier of his command on April 2, after the San Francisco Chronicle published a four-page letter Crozier had written to military officials asking for resources to protect his crew from a COVID-19 outbreak on board the ship.

“This will require a political solution but it is the right thing to do,” Crozier wrote at the time. “We are not at war. Sailors do not need to die. If we do not act now, we are failing to properly take care of our most trusted asset—our Sailors.” At least 230 crew members aboard the aircraft carrier have tested positive for the novel coronavirus as of today, and Crozier himself was already experiencing symptoms and received a positive diagnosis shortly after leaving the ship.

In addition to relieving Crozier—a popular captain—of his command, Modly took the fairly extraordinary step of going to the ship in person to excoriate Crozier to his crew. Modly flew 7,900 miles each way from Washington, DC, to Guam to visit the ship over the weekend to deliver his remarks.

In his speech, Modly told the crew that Crozier was “too naive or too stupid to be the commanding officer of a ship like this,” based on the letter. He also took potshots at media who reported the contents of the letter and the subsequent firing, adding, “the media has [sic] an agenda, and the agenda they have depends on which side of the political aisle they sit.”

Defense Secretary Mark Esper on Monday told Modly to apologize for his remarks. Modly, facing criticism from the House Armed Services Committee, issued that apology Monday.

In that apology, he wrote:

We pick our carrier commanding officers with great care. Captain Crozier is smart and passionate. I believe, precisely because he is not naive and stupid, that he sent his alarming email with the intention of getting it into the public domain in an effort to draw public attention to the situation on his ship. I apologize for any confusion this choice of words may have caused.

By then, however, President Donald Trump had said he “may just get involved” in the situation. Many voices from the other side of the aisle, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) were also calling for Modly’s removal by today.

Read More