WASHINGTON – The acting secretary of the Navy was jeered and cursed during a visit to the COVID-19 stricken USS Theodore Roosevelt Monday, in which he referred to the banished carrier skipper in derogatory terms.
The Navy initially denied the reported circumstances. However, an audio recording of the event — obtained by Task and Purpose — support the reporting, in which Acting Secretary Thomas Modly called banished Capt. Brett Crozier “either too naive or too stupid to be a commanding officer of a ship like this.”
At one point crew members can be clearly heard saying “what the f—-” as Modly criticized Crozier.
During a profanity-laced address broadcast over the ship’s PA system, Modly told the crew to “do your jobs” and that if a hypersonic missile was heading to the ship the crew would be “f-ing scared.”
He also accused the media of having “an agenda” that was political in reporting the story and that “they use it to embarass you.”
Members of Congress were outraged and there were calls for Modly to be fired.
“Acting Secretary Modly has humiliated himself and the Navy and revealed the true nature of the firing: spiteful ass covering,” Rep Ruben Gallego, D-Ariz., a member of the House Armed Services Committee, said.
“Acting Secretary Modly should no longer be allowed to resign. President Trump or Secretary Esper should fire him. They may or may not do so, but I will not hold my breath,” he said.
The Roosevelt is one of at least three Navy ships in the Pacific facing a growing threat from COVID-19.
Crozier tested positive for COVID-19 this weekend according to a test he was given before he left the ship. Videos show hundreds of crew members gathered on the carrier’s hangar deck to cheer f him as he departed the vessel in Guam, hours after his dismissal. Crozier is awaiting reassignment by the Navy.
At least 173 sailors on the USS Theodore Roosevelt have tested positive for COVID-19. About 2,000 of the 4,000 crew have been moved ashore at Guam.
In his letter addressed to senior Navy leadership in Washington, D.C., seeking help for the crew, Crozier warned last week, “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.”
In his remarks, Modly warned sailors against disclosing information to the media. He said Crozier’s letter was a “betrayal of trust, with me, with his chain of command.”
“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, D.C.,” he said.
Modly became acting Navy Secretary last fall when then-Navy Sec. Richard Spencer was fired in the aftermath of President Trump reversing a Pentagon decision on the demotion of Navy SEAL and accused war criminal Edward Gallagher.
At that time, Defense Secretary Mark Esper said he had lost confidence in Spencer.
That was the same phrase Modly used as one reason he removed Crozier.
While the Pentagon and Trump were at odds over Gallagher, they are aligned on Crozier.
On Sunday Trump said it was “not appropriate” for Crozier to write the letter seeking help and that he agreed with his firing as the carrier commander.
“Perhaps you don’t do that in the middle of a pandemic,” Trump said. “He shouldn’t be talking that way in a letter.”