Acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly referred to Capt. Brett Crozier—the former commander of the USS Theodore Roosevelt—as “stupid” in a speech to the ship’s crew on Monday morning. According to CNN, Modly told the crew that their former commander was either “too naive or too stupid” to be in a leadership role, or suggested that Crozier purposely leaked a memo outlining his concerns about how the Navy was handling the coronavirus outbreak on the ship. “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, D.C.” Modly reportedly told the crew through the ship’s public-address system. He slammed Crozier for allegedly sending the memo to at least 20 people when initially emailing it to Navy leadership, stating that he should have known that the information was going to be made public. “The alternative is that he did this on purpose,” Modly said, adding that the action was a “betrayal of trust, with me, with his chain of command.”
Crozier was dismissed from his position last week after the memo was published in The San Francisco Chronicle. He has reportedly tested positive for coronavirus, and an investigation into his actions is ongoing. More than 170 crew members on the ship have tested positive for COVID-19, and 61 percent of them have been tested. About 2,000 have been evacuated from the ship. The military news website Task & Purpose obtained portions of the audio from Modly’s address.
Later Monday, Modly said his words to the crew “were from the heart.” “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,” he said, according to The Washington Post.