Democratic lawmakers call for Navy chief's firing

Democratic lawmakers call for Navy chief's firing
© Greg Nash

Democratic lawmakers, including members of the House and Senate Armed Services committees, pressed Defense Secretary Mark EsperMark EsperOvernight Defense: Stopgap spending measure awaits Senate vote | Trump nominates former Nunes aide for intelligence community watchdog | Trump extends ban on racial discrimination training to contractors, military Overnight Defense: Pentagon redirects pandemic funding to defense contractors | US planning for full Afghanistan withdrawal by May | Anti-Trump GOP group puts ads in military papers Official: Pentagon has started 'prudent planning' for full Afghanistan withdrawal by May MORE to fire acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly for calling the former captain of the USS Theodore Roosevelt "stupid."

Rep. Elaine LuriaElaine Goodman LuriaKate Schroder in Ohio among Democratic challengers squelching GOP hopes for the House Congress must finish work on popular conservation bill before time runs out Virginians wait up to four hours to cast early voting ballots MORE (D-Va.), a Navy veteran, tweeted Monday that Esper should "immediately fire" Modly over his remarks, which came days after the aircraft carrier's commander, Capt. Brett Crozier, was ousted after warning about a coronavirus outbreak on the vessel.

"I have called on @EsperDoD to immediately fire Acting @SECNAV. If you want to know why, listen to this," Luria tweeted.

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Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) said Modly should be "removed unceremoniously" and accused him of "failing to protect sailors’ safety & health."

"He has betrayed their trust. DoD IG must immediately launch an investigation," Blumenthal tweeted, referring to the Defense Department's inspector general.

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Other lawmakers including Reps. Ted LieuTed W. LieuThe spin on Woodward's tapes reveals the hypocrisy of Democrats Larry Kudlow defends response to coronavirus: Trump 'led wisely' Lieu on Trump 'playing it down' on coronavirus: 'This is reckless homicide' MORE (D-Calif.), Justin AmashJustin AmashRon Paul hospitalized in Texas Internal Democratic poll shows tight race in contest to replace Amash Centrist Democrats 'strongly considering' discharge petition on GOP PPP bill MORE (I-Mich.) and Filemon VelaFilemon Bartolome VelaHispanic Caucus asks for Department of Labor meeting on COVID in meatpacking plants The Hill's Campaign Report: Biden builds big lead in battleground Florida Texas Democrat proposes COVID-19 victims' compensation fund MORE (D-Texas.) said Modly should resign.

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House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam SmithDavid (Adam) Adam SmithOvernight Defense: Appeals court revives House lawsuit against military funding for border wall | Dems push for limits on transferring military gear to police | Lawmakers ask for IG probe into Pentagon's use of COVID-19 funds Democrats push to limit transfer of military-grade gear to police 40 groups call on House panel to investigate Pentagon's use of coronavirus funds MORE (D-Wash.) called for Modly to be removed from his position in a statement on Monday evening. 

"Acting Secretary Modly’s decision to address the sailors on the Roosevelt and personally attack Captain Crozier shows a tone-deaf approach more focused on personal ego than one of the calm, steady leadership we so desperately need in this crisis," Smith wrote.

Modly reportedly unloaded on Crozier during a Monday morning address to the ship's crew, calling the former commander "naive" and accusing him of intentionally leaking a letter to senior defense officials that warned of a growing coronavirus outbreak on the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt. 

"It was a betrayal," Modly said of Crozier's letter warning of the outbreak. "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 stood by his remarks in a statement to CNN when asked about the criticism of Crozier.

"I stand by every word I said, even, regrettably any profanity that may have been used for emphasis," Modly said. "Anyone who has served on a Navy ship would understand. I ask, but don't expect, that people read them in their entirety."

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It's unclear how well the acting secretary's remarks were received on the ship.

Video of Crozier's departure showed hundreds of sailors cheering and chanting "Captain Crozier" in support of their fired commander a few days before the speech.

The Pentagon did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Updated at 7:53 p.m.