Acting Secretary of the Navy quits fight against captain of aircraft carrier for coronavirus

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WASHINGTON – The top civilian in the Navy has resigned after criticizing an aircraft captain for help with a coronavirus outbreak on his ship, several media reported on Tuesday.

The move comes hours after Acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas Modly apologized for ridiculing U.S. Navy captain Brett Crozier, whose letter asking for help in the midst of an epidemic of coronavirus on an American warship was leaked to the media.

“Let’s be clear, I don’t think Captain Brett Crozier is naive or stupid,” Modly wrote in a statement on Monday. “I believe, precisely because he is not naive and stupid, that he sent his alarming e-mail with the intention of putting it in the public domain in order to draw public attention to the situation on his ship. “

“I also want to apologize directly to Captain Crozier, his family and the entire crew of Theodore Roosevelt for the pain my remarks may have caused,” he added.

It was not immediately clear whether Defense Secretary Mark Esper had accepted Modly’s resignation. The Pentagon did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment.

“Too naive or too stupid”

The apology was issued following a surprise speech Modly made on board the USS Theodore Roosevelt, struck by coronaviruses.

“If he didn’t think this information was going to be made public in the information age we live in, then he was, A, too naive or too stupid to be the commander of a ship like this Modly said the crew on a loudspeaker.

“The alternative is that he did it on purpose,” he said, adding that he maintained his decision to release Crozier from his command.

Read more: Navy releases captain after seeking help for coronavirus outbreak on aircraft carrier

Modly told Pentagon journalists last week that he had lost confidence in Crozier and that the letter “sounded the alarm unnecessarily.”

Acting Secretary of the Navy, Thomas Modly, briefs the press on the Navy response to COVID-19, at the Pentagon, Washington, D.C., April 1, 2020.

Lisa Ferdinando | Defense Department

President Donald Trump said on Monday that he could get involved in the messy tit-to-tat between Modly and Crozier when he is asked about the saga that revolves around the captain’s astonishing call for help. .

“Look, the letters should not have been sent and certainly they should not have been released,” said Trump, adding that the letter showed “weakness” in the US Navy.

“He was weak, we don’t want to be weak,” he added, saying he wanted to get involved in the matter because he was satisfied with Crozier’s military career.

“I looked at his file and he is an exceptional person,” said Trump. “I’m going to get involved and see exactly what’s going on there because I don’t want to destroy someone for having a bad day. “

“Sailors don’t need to die”

In a four-page letter, first reported by the San Francisco Chronicle, Crozier described a worsening coronavirus epidemic on board the warship, the temporary residence of more than 4,000 crew members. More than 100 people on board the ship were infected.

“We are not at war. Sailors don’t have to die. If we don’t act now, we can’t take good care of our most reliable asset – our sailors, “wrote Crozier. “The spread of the disease continues and is accelerating. “

So far, 173 crew members have tested positive, including Crozier himself.

Modly rose to first place in the Navy after the shocking resignation of then Secretary of the Navy Richard Spencer amid controversy over the handling of a case involving a Navy SEAL convicted of illegally posing for photos with the body of an ISIS fighter.

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