Acting US Navy chief resigns over ship Covid-19 row

Cheryl Sanders
April 8, 2020

Acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas Modly resigned Tuesday following an uproar over his handling of a coronavirus outbreak on an aircraft carrier and his harsh rebuke of the ship's commander after his desperate plea for help was leaked to the media.

Yesterday we joined the chorus of condemnation of acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly for his actions in relation to Captain Brett Crozier of the USS Theodore Roosevelt.

"I could reach no other conclusion than that Capt. Crozier had allowed the complexity of his challenge with the covid outbreak on his ship to overwhelm his ability to act professionally, when acting professionally was what was needed most at the time", said Modly last week. Modly's speech, however, was recorded and then also leaked to the media. The acting secretary then flew to Guam, where the ship is docked, and delivered a profanity-laced tirade to remaining crew members, NPR reported.

"The alternative is that he did it on goal", he added.

Previously, though, Trump had taken a harder line on Crozier: "I thought it was bad, what he did, to write a letter". The individual further noted that Modly did not do so as a result of pressure from Esper or the White House.

But he changed course late Monday night and issued an apology for his use of the words "too naïve" and "too stupid" to characterize the fired ship's captain.

Two U.S. officials told ABC News that Esper directed Modly to apologize for his remarks.

"I have the deepest respect for anyone who serves our country, and who places the greater good above all else", he said in a lengthy statement. Officials said it would have been difficult for him to rebuild his relationship with sailors in the fleet, and equally hard to restore his reputation among senior military leaders and retired naval officers who believed his sharp remarks on the Roosevelt crossed a line.

Modly said the leak of the letter amounted to a betrayal by the captain, who was responsible one way or another.

"I apologize for any confusion this choice of words may have caused", Modley continued, referring to his speech aboard the Roosevelt on Sunday.

"We don't do that in the Navy", he continued. "Sailors do not need to die", wrote Crozier in the memo in which he implied that sailors would die unless the crew was taken off and the ship disinfected.

Aboard the ship, Modly had urged the crew to stop complaining.

After an unofficial transcript of Modly's remarks and an audio recording circulated widely on the internet Monday, Rep. Elaine Luria, a Virginia Democrat and Navy veteran, called for Modly to be fired.

On Tuesday, for instance, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called for his removal despite his apology.

Modly said in an earlier statement that the letter was sent via non-secure unclassified email outside of the chain of command, had "raised alarm bells unnecessarily", and "created the impression that the Navy was not responding to his questions".

Other reports by iNewsToday