Acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly has resigned, capping days of turmoil that began last week when Capt. Brett Crozier, the former commander of the USS Theodore Roosevelt, called for the evacuation of his aircraft carrier due to the coronavirus.
Modly then flew to the Theodore Roosevelt to deliver a stinging rebuke to the crew for their support of their former commander.
Defense Secretary Mark Esper met with Modly on Tuesday, according to Fox News, and Modly decided to resign.
Esper then alerted President Donald Trump, who accepted the resignation, which the defense secretary announced on Twitter.
“This morning I accepted Secretary Modly’s resignation. With the approval of the President, I am appointing current Army Undersecretary Jim McPherson as acting Secretary of the Navy,” Esper tweeted.
This morning I accepted Secretary Modly’s resignation. With the approval of the President, I am appointing current Army Undersecretary Jim McPherson as acting Secretary of the Navy. pic.twitter.com/FvfgOwuXw4
— @EsperDoD (@EsperDoD) April 7, 2020
Modly did not mention the controversy in his resignation letter.
“More than anything, I owe every member of the Navy and Marine Corps team a lifetime of gratitude for the opportunity to serve for them, and with them, once again,” he wrote. “They are the reason why I will forever remain inspired by the call of service. They are the ones who lift our nation, heal our divides, and make this country the greatest in the history of the world.
“That is why with a heavy heart, I hereby submit my resignation, effective immediately. The men and women of the Department of the Navy deserve a continuity of civilian leadership befitting our great Republic, and the decisive naval force that secures our way of life. I will be forever grateful for my opportunity, and the blessing, to be part of it.”
Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina indicated he thought the resignation was appropriate.
Appreciate acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas Modly tendering his resignation in light of his engagement with the crew of the USS Theodore Roosevelt.
It was very inappropriate to attack the former captain in the manner shown by acting Secretary Modly.
It is time to move on.
— Lindsey Graham (@LindseyGrahamSC) April 7, 2020
“This will require a political solution but it is the right thing to do,” he wrote. “We are not at war. Sailors do not need to die. If we do not act now, we are failing to properly take care of our most trusted asset — our Sailors.”
He added that “due to a warship’s inherent limitations of space, we are not doing this,” referring to social distancing.
“Removing the majority of personnel from a deployed U.S. nuclear aircraft carrier and isolating them for two weeks may seem like an extraordinary measure. … This is a necessary risk,” Crozier wrote. “Keeping over 4,000 young men and women on board the TR is an unnecessary risk and breaks faith with those Sailors entrusted to our care.”
Modly sacked Crozier, saying he showed “extremely poor judgment” in circulating the memo. Then, after flying to Guam to go aboard the carrier, Modly demeaned the former commander in a speech to the crew and criticized them for cheering Crozier, which had been captured in a viral video.
“If he didn’t think, in my opinion, that this information wasn’t going to get out into the public, in this day and information age that we live in, then he was either A, too naive or too stupid to be a commanding officer of a ship like this,” Modly said. “The alternative is that he did this on purpose.”
“So think about that when you cheer the man off the ship who exposed you to that,” he said. “I understand you love the guy. It’s good that you love him. But you’re not required to love him.”
Modly later issued an apology to the Navy and Cozier, according to Fox News.
“Let me be clear, I do not think Captain Brett Crozier is naive nor stupid,” Modly said. “I think, and always believed him to be the opposite. We pick our carrier commanding officers with great care. Captain Crozier is smart and passionate.”
“I apologize for any confusion this choice of words may have caused. I also want to apologize directly to Captain Crozier, his family, and the entire crew of the Theodore Roosevelt for any pain my remarks may have caused,” he said.
Trump was asked about Modly’s resignation during Tuesday’s coronavirus task force briefing.
“I had no role in it. I’ve heard, I don’t know him, but I heard he’s a very good man,” the president said of Modly. “The whole thing was very unfortunate. The captain should not have written a letter. He didn’t have to be Ernest Hemmingway. He made a mistake but he had a bad day. I hate seeing bad things happen. The man made a mistake.”
Trump said he heard Modly resigned “because he didn’t want to cause any disturbance for our country. … And I think in really many ways, that was a very unselfish thing for him to do.”
The president said that the Pentagon will address Crozier’s future.
“They’re going to just take it under regular Navy channels to see what they want to do,” he said.
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