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Acting Navy Secretary Apologizes for Berating Captain in Speech to Sailors after Trump Says ‘I’m Going to Get Involved’

Acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas Modly at a hearing on Capitol Hill, December 3, 2019 (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

Acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly apologized on Monday night after his speech to sailors on the USS Theodore Roosevelt aircraft carrier leaked, revealing he had lambasted the former captain of the ship for his handling of a coronavirus outbreak onboard.

While Modly had initially said he stood by “every word” of his speech, in which he said Captain Brett Crozier made a “naive” or “stupid” decision to widely circulate a letter asking the Navy for help that eventually leaked to the press, he released a subsequent statement reversing himself.

“I want to apologize to the Navy for my recent comments to the crew of the TR,” Modly said in a statement. “Let me be clear, I do not think Captain Brett Crozier is naïve nor stupid. I think, and always believed him to be the opposite.”

In the speech to the crew of the ship, currently docked in Guam, Modly slammed Crozier’s decision-making, and suggested he had written the letter with the intention of it leaking to the media.

Crozier has reportedly tested positive for coronavirus since being relieved of command. Footage of the captain leaving the ship showed sailors cheering his name.

The apology also comes after President Trump said he would “get involved” in the Navy’s decision to fire Crozier, adding that “the letter shouldn’t have been sent,” but that Crozier’s “career prior to that was very good.”

“I’m going to get involved and see exactly what’s going on there, because I don’t want to destroy somebody for having a bad day . . . you have two good people and they’re arguing, and believe it or not I’m good at settling arguments,” the president said at the daily White House coronavirus briefing on Monday.

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