Acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly is standing by his comments to the crew of the USS Theodore Roosevelt, now dockside in Guam following a coronavirus outbreak, including his characterization of the ship’s captain that he fired as “stupid.”
In a shipwide address to the crew, Mr. Modly accused Capt. Brett E. Crozier, who was removed from command last week, of personal betrayal and causing controversy in Washington with a widely disseminated email requesting immediate assistance for his stricken crew.
The letter from Capt. Crozier, sent over an unclassified email system, warned of a potential catastrophe aboard the aircraft carrier. It was the heart of a story later published in the San Francisco Chronicle.
“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 that we live in, then he was either too naive or too stupid to be commanding officer of a ship like this,” Mr. Modly said, according to a transcript and recording of his message over the ship’s public address system. “The alternative is that he did this on purpose.”
Mr. Modly also chided the press, saying reporters have an agenda and are interested only in dividing and embarrassing the Navy.
Mr. Modly released a statement after the transcript and recording became public. He said he hasn’t yet listened to his remarks, so he can’t vouch for their accuracy.
“The spoken words were from the heart and meant for” the ship’s crew, Mr. Modly said in the statement. “I stand by every word I said, even, regrettably, any profanity that may have been used for emphasis.”
Capt. Crozier is currently in quarantine after he tested positive for the coronavirus. His next assignment hasn’t been released, but being fired from a ship’s command is traditionally a career-killer in the Navy.
Sen. Tim Kaine, a Virginia Democrat who serves on the Senate Armed Services Committee, blasted Mr. Modly’s comments to the crew, calling them “completely inappropriate” and beneath his office.
“It’s deeply disappointing that he would deliver a speech on board a U.S. aircraft carrier suggesting that Captain Crozier might be ‘stupid’ and bashing the media for trying to report the truth,” Mr. Kaine said. “These dedicated sailors deserve better from their leadership.”