Acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly blasted Navy Capt. Brett Crozier, the fired commander of the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt, in remarks to the crew delivered Sunday.
Modly, according to a leaked unofficial transcript and leaked audio of his remarks published by Task and Purpose, explained to the crew why he fired Crozier on Thursday. He said he reached out to Crozier on Sunday, March 29, and asked if there was anything else he needed to get his sailors healthy and clean.
He said Crozier “waved him off,” and said he felt that things were under control. He said Crozier also emailed “back and forth” with his chief of staff. Later that day, Crozier sent an email urging Navy leaders to get sailors off the ship faster, which leaked to the San Francisco Chronicle, Modly said.
Modly said in remarks that were blasted over the ship’s intercom system:
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 A, too naive or too stupid to be a commanding officer of a ship like this. The alternative is that he did this on purpose. And that’s a serious violation of the [Uniform Code of Military Justice] which you are all familiar with.
He added that the content of the memo was fine, if he had just sent it to people in his chain of command in a confidential way.
Modly called it a “betrayal” of trust with his chain of command and with the sailors on shore who are “busting their asses everyday” to find suitable housing for the sailors in Guam.
Modly never explicitly said Crozier leaked it to the media, but heavily implied that he sent it in a way that it would.
He put it in the public’s forum and it’s now become a big controversy in Washington, DC, and across the country. About a martyr CO, who wasn’t getting the help he needed and therefore had to go through the Chain of Command, a chain of command which includes the media. And I’m going to tell you something, all of you, there is never a situation where you should consider the media a part of your chain of command.
There is no, no situation where you go to the media. 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.
Modly also slammed Crozier’s characterization in his memo of not being at war:
One of the things that bother me the most was saying that we are not at war. Let me tell you something, the only reason we are dealing with this right now is a big authoritative regime called China was not forthcoming about what was happening with this virus and they put the world at risk to protect themselves and to protect their reputation.
Modly also defended the Navy not moving faster to get sailors off the ship earlier, citing concerns from the local government in Guam.
“It’s a U.S. territory, but they have their own government and they have their own healthcare problems and they’re scared too, just like every other part of the world,” he said.
“When Capt. Crozier’s letter came out to the public, she then had to deal with then [sic] all her constituents who are then saying, ‘Holy crap what’s happening? We are going to have 5,000 people with COVID in our city without proper health care and everything else.'”
“So just think about that when you cheer the man off the ship who exposed you to that,” Modly said.
Modly in a statement on Monday confirmed he delivered the speech:
I have not listened to a recording of my remarks since speaking to the crew so I cannot verify if the transcript is accurate. The spoken words were from the heart, and meant for them. I stand by every word I said, even, regrettably any profanity that may have been used for emphasis. Anyone who has served on a Navy ship would understand. I ask, but don’t expect, that people read them in their entirety.
NEW: Acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly says, “I stand by every word,” after reportedly calling Captain Crozier "too naive or too stupid” to be in command. pic.twitter.com/Qcbf3JQKqb
— Geoff Bennett (@GeoffRBennett) April 6, 2020
Crozier has tested positive for coronavirus and exhibited symptoms before he was fired, according to the New York Times on Sunday.