Thomas Modly, President Trump’s acting Navy secretary, told sailors on the USS Theodore Roosevelt that their fired captain was ‘naive’ and ‘stupid’ for the missive he wrote complaining about the lack of help for the coronavirus-infested ship and then complained about the flak he was receiving for relieving Captain Brett Crozier of his duties.
Modly flew to Guam, where the ship is docked as 5,000 crew members get tested after a coronavirus outbreak on the aircraft carrier, to address the sailors, who cheered Crozier as he left the ship after Modly relieved him of his command.
He criticized Crozier for the scathing memo he wrote to Navy officials, pleading to be able to take the Roosevelt to dock to try and contain the growing out break on the ship.
‘We are not at war. Sailors do not need to die,’ Crozier wrote in the four-page missive, which was leaked to the media and ignited a fire storm of controversy for the Navy.
Modly, in remarks sent over the ship’s PA system, blasted the captain for going outside the chain of command.
‘If he didn’t think, in my opinion, that this information wasn’t going to get out into the public, in this day and information age we live in, then he was either A) too naïve or too stupid to be a commanding officer of a ship like this. The alternative is that he did this on purpose,’ the navy secretary told the crew of the USS Theodore Roosevelt in a speech obtained by the Daily Caller.
Thomas Modly, President Trump’s acting Navy secretary, told sailors on the USS Theodore Roosevelt that their fired captain was ‘naive’ and ‘stupid’
Captain Brett Crozier was relieved of his duties after a memo he wrote complaining the Navy wasn’t doing enough to help with a coronavirus outbreak on his ship went viral
Acting Navy Secretary Tom Modly, seen with President Donald Trump at the December Army-Navy game, said he fired the captain because he thought Trump would want him to
‘I’m gonna tell you something, all of you, there is never a situation where you should consider the media a part of your chain of command,’ Modly noted. ‘Because the media has an agenda and the agenda that they have depends on which side of the political aisle they sit, and I’m sorry that’s the way the country is now, but it’s the truth. And so they use it to divide us and use it to embarrass the Navy. They use it to embarrass you.’
He then went on to complain about the hate being levied at him for firing the ‘hero’ captain, as Crozier is being referred to by supporters online.
‘I cannot control or attempt to change whatever anger you have with me for relieving your beloved CO. If I could offer you a glimpse of the level of hatred and pure evil that has been thrown my way, my family’s way and they are taking care of people on the shore who are busting their asses to get them off this ship. They aren’t taking shots at them. They’re asking how can we help them,’ Modly said.
The backlash to Modly’s decision has been intense and support for the captain is strong. The crew of Theodore Roosevelt applauded Crozier as he descended the gangplank of the nuclear-powered ship after Modly relieved him.
Many sailors hailed Crozier as a hero.
‘He had legitimate concerns about his sailors, asked for help in a respectful and honorable way, and then they relieved him of duty’ one Roosevelt sailor told The Wall Street Journal.
‘Seriously, that’s crazy. If anything the guy deserves a promotion. That’s the type of leadership they lack, but the type they need,’ another said.
The acting Navy secretary defended his decision in an interview with The Washington Post, where he explained he fired Crozier because he thought that was what President Trump would want.
‘I didn’t want to get into a decision where the president would feel that he had to intervene because the Navy couldn’t be decisive,’ Modly said: ‘If I were president, and I saw a commanding officer of a ship exercising such poor judgment, I would be asking why the leadership of the Navy wasn’t taking action itself.’
He said he did not speak to anyone in the White House before he made his decision.
But Modly also recounted how his predecessor, Navy Secretary Richard Spencer, ‘lost his job because the Navy Department got crossways with the president’ in the case of former Navy Seal Eddie Gallagher.
‘I didn’t want that to happen again,’ Modly said.
And the president made it clear he agreed with the decision to terminate Crozier.
‘I thought it was terrible, what he did, to write a letter. I mean, this isn’t a class on literature. This is a captain of a massive ship that’s nuclear powered. And he shouldn’t be talking that way in a letter,’ Trump said.
Captain Brett Crozier was relieved of his command of the USS Theodore Roosevelt on Thursday, two days after his letter calling to evacuate the aircraft carrier was leaked in the media. Video posted to social media on Thursday shows hundreds of sailors aboard the ship bidding a raucous farewell and saluting their fired commander
Trump went against Spencer’s recommendation and reversed a demotion Gallagher received from the Navy.
Gallagher was accused of multiple offenses during his final deployment to Iraq, including the murder of a prisoner of war. Ultimately, a court only convicted him on one count. He was sentenced to time served and demoted.
Modly recounted that situation in his interview with The Post.
‘I put myself in the president’s shoes. I considered how the president felt like he needed to get involved in Navy decisions [in the Gallagher case and the Spencer firing]. I didn’t want that to happen again,’ he said.
Modly is a graduate of the Naval Academy who spent seven years as a U.S. Navy officer before working in the private sector. He’s served as acting secretary of the Navy since November.
In early March, the USS Theodore Roosevelt made a stop in Vietnam. As it headed back out to sea, crew members began falling ill to the coronavirus with the highly contagious disease spreading rapidly throughout the ship.
The numbers rose from from three initially to more than 150 sailors affected.
In his memo, Crozier complained about the limitations of the coronavirus test, saying seven who tested negative displayed symptoms of infection one to three days later.
He also pointed out the ship’s close quarters made it unable to comply with the recommended social distancing guidelines.
He wrote that bunk space, shared meals and bathroom spaces are ‘most conducive’ to spreading the disease.
‘With the exceptions of a handful of senior officer staterooms, none of the berthing onboard a warship is appropriate for quarantine or isolation,’ he noted.
After the memo went viral, Crozier was relieved of command.
Modly defended his actions, saying he had his chief of staff reach out to Crozier directly after he learned of the outbreak on the ship.
‘That message and all the contents of that message was perfectly fine for him to send to people in his chain of command in a confidential way so they could get acting on it. He, in fact, could have given it to me, either my chief of staff, or to me, as I asked him to do when I first reached out to him on the ship when we first found out that there were COVID cases here,’ he told the Roosevelt sailors in his speech.
The outbreak aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt (seen docked in Guam on March 27) was first reported days after the ship concluded a historic five-day visit to Vietnam from March 4-9. Officials say they are still working to trace the origins of the outbreak
Sailors say morale quickly plummeted after the first COVID-19 cases were reported on the vessel, which provided the perfect environment for an outbreak given its close quarters. The ship is seen docked in Guam on March 27
And he told The Washington Post he was shocked when the missive from Crozier, which was sent to an email distribution list Modly wasn’t on, went public.
‘I was flabbergasted,’ Modly said. ‘My only conclusion was, ‘he’s panicking.’ It was so out of character.’
Officials say they are still working to trace the origins of the outbreak on the ship and have not positively determined whether it began in Vietnam.
Data from the Vietnamese Ministry of Health suggests that the number of COVID-19 cases in Vietnam doubled during the five days the Roosevelt was docked at Tien Sa port in Da Nang.
But sailors were largely unfazed by the virus as they went on shore leave in Da Nang, even as the number of cases across the world skyrocketed.
Two Naval Academy classmates of Crozier who remain close to the family revealed that he had tested positive for COVID-19 to The New York Times on Sunday.
The classmates said Crozier began to show symptoms of the disease before he was relieved of his command.
A spokesperson for the Navy told the Times on Sunday that the captain has been reassigned to the headquarters of the Naval Air Forces Pacific command in San Diego.
Before resuming his duties, however, Crozier must complete a quarantine period.
News of Crozier’s diagnosis comes on the heels of a report claiming that the top US military commander and the most senior naval officer were opposed to Crozier’s dismissal but were overruled by the Trump administration.
General Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Admiral Michael Gilday, the chief of naval operations, believed that the Navy should have allowed an investigation into the letter written by Crozier to run its course.
Defense Secretary Mark Esper on Sunday backed Modly’s decision to fire Crozier
Defense Secretary Mark Esper initially sided with the officers, according to The Washington Post.
Esper on Sunday defended Modly’s decision to fire Crozier.
‘I think acting Secretary Modly made a very tough decision – a decision that I support,’ Esper told CNN on Sunday.
‘It was based on his view that he had lost faith and confidence in the captain based on his actions.
‘It’s just another example (of) how we hold leaders accountable for their actions.’
Esper was asked if the Trump administration moved too quickly to fire Crozier instead of allowing the military to complete its probe into the matter.
The defense secretary replied that it was ‘not unheard of’ for the Navy to fire a senior officer before an internal investigation is complete.
‘All the services at times relieve commanders without the benefit of an investigation up front because they have lost confidence in them,’ Esper said.
‘It’s certainly not unique to the Navy.
‘The Navy has a culture of swiftly and decisively removing captains if they lose confidence in them.’
CAPTAIN BRETT CROZIER’S FULL MEMO TO NAVY LEADERS