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House Armed Services chairman calls for removal of Navy chief

House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam SmithDavid (Adam) Adam SmithThe pandemic and a 'rainy day fund' for American charity House Democrat accuses Air Force of attempting to influence Georgia runoff races US national security policy in the 117th Congress and a new administration MORE (D-Wash.) on Monday called for the removal of acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas Modly after audio leaked in the media of Modly saying an ousted ship captain was "too naive or too stupid" to be in charge of an aircraft carrier.

Smith said he disagrees “strongly” with how Modly has managed the COVID-19 outbreak on the USS Theodore Roosevelt and called the firing of Capt. Brett Crozier “at best an overreaction to the extraordinary steps the Captain took to protect his crew.”

“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,” the representative said in a statement.

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“I no longer have confidence in Acting Secretary Modly’s leadership of the Navy and believe he should be removed from his position,” he added. 

Smith is one of several Democratic lawmakers, including Rep. Elaine LuriaElaine Goodman LuriaChamber-endorsed Dems struggle on election night Overnight Defense: How members of the Armed Services committees fared in Tuesday's elections | Military ballots among those uncounted in too-close-to-call presidential race | Ninth US service member killed by COVID-19 Luria holds onto Virginia House seat MORE (D-Va.), a Navy veteran, calling for Modly’s firing following his speech defending his removal of Crozier.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Rep. Ted LieuTed W. LieuHouse Democrats pick Aguilar as No. 6 leader in next Congress Democrats to determine leaders after disappointing election Mark Cuban asks voters to 'reconsider' donating to Georgia run-off elections MORE (D-Calif.), Rep. Justin AmashJustin AmashIncoming GOP lawmaker shares video of hotel room workout, citing 'Democrat tyrannical control' Rundown of the House seats Democrats, GOP flipped on Election Day Romney congratulates Biden after victory MORE (I-Mich.) and Rep. Filemon VelaFilemon Bartolome VelaDemocrats try to draft Cardenas to run campaign arm after disappointing night Hispanic Caucus asks for Department of Labor meeting on COVID in meatpacking plants The Hill's Campaign Report: Biden builds big lead in battleground Florida MORE (D-Texas) are also requesting that he step down.

Crozier was relieved of duty last week after sending a letter pleading for help with a coronavirus outbreak aboard his 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.”

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In a Monday morning address to the USS Theodore Roosevelt’s crew, 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,” according to leaked transcripts and audio. Modly said that if Crozier himself leaked the letter, it would be a violation of the Uniform Code of Military Justice.  

"It was a betrayal," Modly said during his Monday speech. "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."

The Navy chief later said in a statement Monday that he stood by his comments