The chairman of the House Armed Services Committee has called for the resignation of Acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly after audio leaked of the embattled chief accusing the fired commander of the coronavirus-hit USS Theodore Roosevelt “too naive or too stupid” to lead an aircraft carrier.
Rep. Adam Smith, Washington State Democrat, said in a statement late Monday that he disagrees “strongly” with how Mr. Modly handled the coronavirus outbreak aboard the ship and his decision to fire Capt. Brett E. Crozier, who warned in a letter obtained by news outlets of a potential catastrophe aboard the aircraft carrier — now docked in Guam — after 155 of the 4,865 crew members had tested positive for coronavirus.
“I disagree strongly with the manner in which acting Secretary of the Navy Modly has handled the COVID-19 outbreak on the U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt,” Mr. Smith said. “His decision to relieve Captain Crozier was at best an overreaction to the extraordinary steps the Captain took to protect his crew.”
In a shipwide address to the crew, Mr. Modly accused Capt. 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.
“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. Smith said the decision to address the sailors and “personally attack Captain Crozier shows a tone-deaf approach more focused on personal ego than one of the calm, steady leadership we so desperately need in this crisis.”
“I no longer have confidence in Acting Secretary Modly’s leadership of the Navy and believe he should be removed from his position,” the chairman said.
Mr. Smith joins a handful of Democrats on Capitol Hill who are calling for Mr. Modly’s dismissal, including Reps. Elaine Luria of Virginia, Ted Lieu of California, Justin Amash of Michigan, Filemon Vela of Texas, and Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut.
Capt. Crozier is currently in quarantine after he tested positive for the coronavirus. His next assignment has not yet been released.