Acting U.S. Navy secretary resigns over handling of coronavirus-hit carrier

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Acting U.S. Navy secretary resigns over handling of coronavirus-hit carrier

Acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly resigned on Tuesday after he faced mounting backlash for firing and ridiculing the commander of a U.S. aircraft carrier who pleaded for help stemming a coronavirus outbreak.

Modly’s surprise speech to the crew of the Theodore Roosevelt aircraft carrier on Monday sparked fierce criticism:

(SOUNDBITE) (English) ACTING NAVY SECRETARY THOMAS MODLY HEARD OVER THE SHIP’S INTERCOM, SAYING:

“On Sunday night, he sent that email and that email went out to a broad audience of people…”

In the speech, which could be heard over the ship’s intercom, Modly defended his decision to fire Captain Brett Crozier – who was revered by his crew for writing a scathing letter that leaked to the public asking the Navy for stronger measures to control a coronavirus outbreak onboard his ship.

(SOUNDBITE) (English) ACTING NAVY SECRETARY THOMAS MODLY HEARD OVER THE SHIP’S INTERCOM, SAYING:

“…if he didn’t think that information was gonna get out into the public in this information age that we live in, then he was, A, too naive or too stupid to be the commanding officer of a ship like this.”

Democrats in Congress called for his removal, citing a loss of confidence. House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith told reporters it was hard to imagine Navy members having respect for Modly after his remarks about Crozier.

Modly apologized on Monday, but the damage was done.

One sailor on the carrier told Reuters: “He said what he said and nobody is going to forget it.”

As for Crozier – who got a roaring standing ovation from the crew upon his departure Friday – has himself reportedly tested positive for COVID-19.

Defense Secretary Mark Esper said that with President Donald Trump’s approval, Army Undersecretary Jim McPherson would take over as acting Navy Secretary.



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