Acting Navy Secretary Modly Resigns After Calling Fired Captain 'Stupid': Reports

Thomas Modly apologized Monday night over leaked remarks that ripped fired Capt. Brett Crozier

Thomas Modly
Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty

Acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly, who issued an apology after referring to fired Capt. Brett Crozier as “naïve” and “stupid” in a leaked speech, has resigned, the New York Times reported.

“He resigned of his own accord, putting the Navy and Sailors above self so that the U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt and the Navy, as an institution, can move forward,” Defense Secretary Mark Esper wrote in a letter, CNN reported. “His care for the Sailors was genuine. Secretary Modly served the nation for many years, both in and out of uniform. I have the deepest respect for anyone who serves our country, and who places the greater good above all else. Secretary Modly did that today, and I wish him all the best.”

Esper said Undersecretary of the Army James McPherson will succeed Modly, CNN reported.

Citing a senior defense official, Politico reported Tuesday afternoon that Modly sent in his letter of resignation to Defense Secretary Mark Esper earlier in the day, despite having received no pressure from Esper or the White House to step down.

CNN, citing a U.S. official and a former senior military official, also reported that Modly had submitted his resignation following the widely criticized leaked speech, which repeatedly slammed the dismissed Crozier in front of his former crew members.

A spokesperson for the Navy did not immediately return a request for comment.

The whirlwind sequence of events began on Thursday, when Modly announced he had relieved Crozier of command of the USS Theodore Roosevelt following a leaked letter from Crozier that criticized the Navy’s handling of a coronavirus outbreak on board.

RELATED VIDEO: Fired Captain Disembarks Ship in Guam to Claps and Cheers After Asking For Help amid Coronavirus Outbreak

Modly said he’d “lost confidence” in Crozier’s leadership capabilities, and that Crozier’s letter was outside the chain of command and raised “unnecessary” alarm.

Then on Monday, Modly addressed Roosevelt crew members in a fiery speech leaked to the media that repeatedly railed against Crozier, at one point calling him “too naïve or too stupid to be a commanding officer” if he believed his letter was not going to make its way to the media, The New York Times reported.

Capt. Brett Crozier
Brett Crozier. DVIDS HANDOUT/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

Modly also reportedly implied that Crozier may have leaked it himself by saying the captain committed a “betrayal.”

“If he didn’t think, in my opinion, that this information wasn’t going to get out to the public, in this day and information age that we live in, then he was either A, too naïve or too stupid to be a commanding officer of a ship like this,” Modly said, according to CNN. “The alternative is that he did this on purpose… [It was a] betrayal of trust.”

The scathing remarks prompted outrage and calls for his resignation, and by Monday night, Modly had issued a statement apologizing for his comments.

“I want to apologize to the Navy for my recent comments to the crew of the TR,” Modly said, according to Politico. “Let me be clear, I do not think Captain Brett Crozier is naïve nor stupid. I think, and always believed him to be the opposite.”

The outlet reported that the remorseful statement followed a different statement in which Modly claimed he stood by “every word” he said about Crozier.

Crozier’s initial letter, which came on March 30 and was leaked and published in the San Francisco Chronicle, begged Navy officials to let him isolate his crew of more than 4,000 people in order to help prevent the spread of the virus, as the cramped quarters on the ship — which was docked in Guam following a scheduled port visit — made it impossible to follow social distancing and isolation guidelines.

Crozier, who received applause from the ship’s crew when he departed on Thursday, has tested positive for the coronavirus, The New York Times reported.

He has reportedly been reassigned to the headquarters of the Naval Air Forces Pacific command in San Diego.

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