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 Esper to fire acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly for calling the former captain of the USS Theodore Roosevelt “stupid.”

Rep. Elaine Luria (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.

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.

Other lawmakers including Reps. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.), Justin Amash (I-Mich.) and Filemon Vela (D-Texas.) said Modly should resign.

House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith (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.”

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.

Tags Adam Smith Coronavirus Elaine Luria Elaine Luria Filemon Vela Justin Amash Mark Esper Mark Esper Ted Lieu Thomas Modly USS Theodore Roosevelt
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