Acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly addressed the crew of the USS Theodore Roosevelt on Monday morning and appeared to chastise them for cheering the ousted Capt. Brett Crozier, who Modly called “too stupid or naive” to command the carrier. According to audio obtained by Task and Purpose, some of the crew rejected those remarks.
“If he [Crozier] didn’t think, in my opinion, that this information [the letter] 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,” Modly said of Crozier.
At least one crew member could be heard remarking, “What the fuck?” to Modly’s remarks about the crew’s beloved former captain. The remarks can be heard in the audio recording below at approximately 1:55.
Modly told the crew that Crozier’s actions were a “betrayal of trust, with me, with his chain of command, with you, with the 800 to a thousand people, who, with your shipmates on shore right now.”
“It was a betrayal. And I can tell you one other thing: because he did that he put it in the public’s forum and it is now a big controversy in Washington, DC,” Modly added.
“So think about that when you cheer the man of the ship who exposed you to that,” Modly said. “I understand you love the guy. It’s good that you love him. But you’re not required to love him.”
“Crew of the Teddy Roosevelt, you are under no obligation to love your leadership, only respect it,” he continued. “You are under no obligation to like your job, only to do it. You are under no obligation, you are under no obligation to expect anything from your leaders other than they will treat you fairly and put the mission of the ship first.”
“It is the mission of the ship that matters. You all know this, but in my view, your Captain lost sight of this and he compromised critical information about your status intentionally to draw greater attention to your situation,” Modly said.
“That was my judgment and I judged that it could not be tolerated of a Commanding Officer of a nuclear aircraft carrier. This put you at great risk even though I am certain that he thought it never would. I am certain that he loved you all, as he should, but he lost sight of why the [Teddy Roosevelt] exists and why fate brought you all together in the middle of this COVID crisis,” he said.
The remarks were spoken over the aircraft carrier’s PA system Monday morning.
Modly later said he stood by “every word” he spoke during the announcement, according to a statement posted by NBC News correspondent Geoff Bennett.
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 had written a letter to the Navy on Tuesday pleading for help in isolating his crew amid a coronavirus outbreak board the aircraft carrier. The letter was leaked to the media, and on Thursday, the Navy relieved him, citing “lost confidence in his ability to lead.” Videos on Thursday showed the crew chanting “Captain Crozier” and cheering Crozier as he departed the ship.
Crozier’s four-page letter had urged superiors to grant him permission to dock the carrier at a port in Guam and quarantine the crew on land.
“This will require a political solution but it is the right thing to do,” Crozier wrote in the letter, which was reported by San Francisco Chronicle on Tuesday. “We are not at war. Sailors do not need to die. If we do not act now, we are failing to properly take care of our most trusted asset — our Sailors.”
On Sunday, a New York Times report citing two colleagues of Crozier’s, had said he tested positive for coronavirus. Crozier reportedly began showing symptoms of the virus even before he was relieved of his command of the carrier on Thursday.