Democratic senator rips Navy head's 'completely inappropriate' speech on ousted carrier captain

Sen. Tim KaineTimothy (Tim) Michael KaineTrump taps Amy Coney Barrett for Supreme Court, setting up confirmation sprint Supreme Court fight pushes Senate toward brink Trump plans to pick Amy Coney Barrett to replace Ginsburg on court MORE (D-Va.) blasted Thomas Modly on Monday after the acting Navy secretary called an ousted aircraft carrier captain “too naive or too stupid” to command the ship.

“Based on the transcript I’ve read, Secretary Modly’s comments were completely inappropriate and beneath the office of the secretary of the Navy,” Kaine, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said in a statement.

At issue is a speech Modly gave to sailors aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt addressing his decision to relieve Capt. Brett Crozier after a letter Crozier wrote pleading for help with a coronavirus outbreak on the carrier leaked in the media.

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In the speech, of which a transcript and audio leaked in the media Monday, Modly said that if Crozier didn’t think the letter would leak, he was “too naive or too stupid to be a commanding officer of a ship like this.”

Alternatively, Modly said, if Crozier leaked the letter on purpose, that would be a “serious violation” of the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

Modly also warned sailors that there is “no situation” in which they should go to the media, alleging “the media has an agenda” that “depends on which side of the political aisle they sit.”

In his statement, Kaine called Modly’s speech “deeply disappointing.”

“It’s deeply disappointing that he would deliver a speech on board a U.S. aircraft carrier suggesting that Capt. Crozier might be ‘stupid’ and bashing the media for trying to report the truth,” Kaine said. “These dedicated sailors deserve better from their leadership.”

Crozier’s letter, which was obtained and published by the San Francisco Chronicle last week, warned sailors could die if a majority of the crew wasn’t evacuated from the ship.

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“We are not at war. Sailors do not need to die,” Crozier wrote. “If we do not act now, we are failing to properly take care of our most trusted asset — our sailors.”

As of Sunday, 155 sailors on the Roosevelt had tested positive for the virus.

Prior to Crozier’s firing, Kaine and fellow Virginia Democratic Sen. Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerFBI director casts doubt on concerns over mail-in voting fraud Democrats call for declassifying election threats after briefing by Trump officials It's time to upgrade benefits MORE wrote a letter to Modly raising several questions about how the Navy intended to handle the outbreak.