Acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly said on Monday he stands by a speech about his decision to remove the captain of an aircraft carrier during which he suggested the captain was “naive” or “stupid,” according to leaked transcripts and audio.
"I have not listened to a recording of my remarks since speaking to the crew so I cannot verify if the transcript is accurate,” Modly said in a statement Monday.
“The spoken words were from the heart, and meant for them,” Modly continued. “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. I ask, but don’t expect, that people read them in their entirety."
At issue is a speech Modly gave to sailors aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt addressing his decision to relieve Capt. Brett Crozier of duty. Crozier was dismissed after a letter he wrote pleading for help with a coronavirus outbreak on the carrier leaked in the media.
A four-page transcript of Modly’s address and a 15-minute recording were leaked to several media outlets Monday.
In the speech, 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.
He also called Crozier’s action a “betrayal” and 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.”
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.
“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 Monday, 173 sailors from the USS Theodore Roosevelt have tested positive for the virus out of the 61 percent of the crew that has been tested. Of the 4,800-person crew, 1,999 have been moved to shore, the Navy said Monday, despite officials saying last week they would move 2,700 to shore by Friday.
A day after Crozier was fired, video surfaced on social media showing hundreds of sailors applauding the captain and cheering his name as he left the ship.
In his speech, Modly acknowledged Crozier’s popularity among his crew, but said sailors should think about the controversy he caused “when you cheer the man off the ship.”
“I understand that you love the guy,” he said. “It’s good that you love him. But you’re not required to love him.”