There are roughly 5,000 crew members on the Theodore Roosevelt, and more than 150 have tested positive for the COVID-19 coronavirus. Last week, the ship's commander, Capt. Brett Crozier, wrote a letter to the Navy saying "decisive action" was required in order to stop the spread of COVID-19 on board. "We are not at war," he said. "Sailors do not need to die." After the letter was leaked to the media, Crozier was dismissed; as he left the aircraft carrier for the last time on Friday, sailors chanted his name and cheered.
The Theodore Roosevelt is now docked in Guam, and Modly flew thousands of miles to visit the ship on Monday. In his remarks to the sailors — according to an audio version obtained by The Wall Street Journal — Modly said of Crozier: "If he didn't think, in my opinion, that this information wasn't going to get into the public, in this information age we live in, then he was either too naive or too stupid to be commanding officer of a ship like this."
Modly's remarks were swiftly criticized, with Rep. Elaine Luria (D-Va.), a Navy veteran, among the many lawmakers calling on him to be fired. On Monday night, Modly said he does not "think Capt. Brett Crozier is naive nor stupid," adding, "I believe, precisely because he is not naive and stupid, that he sent his alarming email with the intention of getting it into the public domain in an effort to draw attention to the situation on his ship. I apologize for any confusion this choice of words may have caused." He also said he was sorry to Crozier for "any pain my remarks may have caused."
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