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Acting Navy Secretary Lambastes Ousted Captain in Speech to Sailors On His Former Ship

Acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas Modly, testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, December 3, 2019. (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

Acting navy secretary Thomas Modly on Monday flew to Guam where he gave a speech to sailors on the USS Theodore Roosevelt aircraft carrier, criticizing the former captain of the ship for his handling of a coronavirus outbreak onboard.

Modly termed a letter sent by Captain Brett Crozier to superiors pleading for help with the ship’s coronavirus outbreak, which was subsequently leaked to the press, a “betrayal of trust.” The navy secretary’s speech was obtained by the Daily Caller.

“I reached out to your [Commanding Officer] through my chief of staff very, very early on in this crisis. On Sunday [March 29], I told him that I wanted to come out to the ship…because I wanted to help,” Modly told the ship’s sailors. “He waved me off. He said he felt like things were under control.”

Modly said that subsequently on the evening of March 29, Crozier sent out the email asking for help to over 20 people.

“If [Crozier] 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 stupid or too naive to be a commanding officer of a ship like this. The alternative is that he did this on purpose,” Modly said. Crozier could have given the information “to my Chief of Staff, or to me, as I asked him to do when I first reached out to him.”

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

Crozier sent his letter to numerous Navy personnel as an unclassified email. The letter published on the morning of March 30 by the San Francisco Chronicle.

“Due to a warship’s inherent limitations of space, we are not [social distancing]…The spread of the disease is ongoing and accelerating,” Crozier wrote. “Decisive action is required. Removing the majority of personnel from a deployed U.S. nuclear aircraft carrier and isolating them for two weeks may seem like an extraordinary measure. . . . This is a necessary risk.”

Send a tip to the news team at NR.

Zachary Evans is a news writer for National Review Online. He is a veteran of the Israeli Defense Forces and a trained violist.

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