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 EsperPentagon orders active-duty police units on ready to deploy to Minneapolis: AP Overnight Defense: Trump extends deployment of National Guard troops to aid with coronavirus response | Pentagon considers reducing quarantine to 10 days | Lawmakers push for removal of Nazi headstones from VA cemeteries No time to be selling arms to the Philippines MORE to fire acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly for calling the former captain of the USS Theodore Roosevelt "stupid."

Rep. Elaine LuriaElaine Goodman LuriaGun control group rolls out House endorsements The Hill's Campaign Report: DOJ, intel to be major issues in 2020 House GOP lawmaker breaks with party to back proxy voting 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. LieuTed Lieu responds to viral video: 'Costco has a right to require that customers wear a mask' Bipartisan Senate group offers new help to state, local governments California Democrat blasts Huntington Beach protesters: They 'undoubtedly spread the virus' MORE (D-Calif.), Justin AmashJustin AmashThe Hill's Campaign Report: DOJ, intel to be major issues in 2020 Amash decides against Libertarian campaign for president The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - In reversal, Trump says he won't disband coronavirus task force MORE (I-Mich.) and Filemon VelaFilemon Bartolome VelaHouse members race to prepare for first-ever remote votes Hispanic leaders warn census could undercount minority communities amid pandemic Group of House Democrats asks for 0 billion for testing MORE (D-Texas.) said Modly should resign.

House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam SmithDavid (Adam) Adam SmithBipartisan Senate panel leaders back fund to deter China Boosting military deterrence in the Indo-Pacific region House chairmen demand explanation on Trump's 'illegal' withdrawal from Open Skies Treaty 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.