- Secretary of Defence Mark Esper directed acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas Modly to apologise for remarks criticising Capt. Brett Crozier, former commanding officer of the USS Theodore Roosevelt, according to multiple reports.
- After issuing a statement Monday saying he stood by his statements aboard the carrier, Modly backtracked later in the day, saying in a statement, “I want to apologise to the Navy for my recent comments to the crew of the TR.”
- The Pentagon declined to comment on reports that Esper directed the apology.
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Secretary of Defence Mark Esper directed acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas Modly to apologise for remarks he made to the crew of the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt sharply criticising the ship’s former commanding officer, according to multiple reports.
The Associated Press, citing a person familiar with the conversation, first reported that Esper’s staff ordered Modly to apologise.Fox News and CNN, citing officials, also reported that Esper’s office directed the acting secretary’s apology.
The Pentagon declined to comment, and the Office of the Secretary of the Navy did not to Insider’s request for comment.
Speaking to the crew of the USS Theodore Roosevelt, currently at port in Guam, Modly criticised the actions of Capt. Brett Crozier, the carrier’s former CO, who was relieved of duty last Thursday after a letter he wrote raising concerns about a serious coronavirus outbreak leaked to the press.
Audio of Modly’s 15-minute all-hands call aboard the carrier leaked after transcripts of the speech surfaced online. In his comments, Modly suggested that Crozier might be “too naive or too stupid to be a commanding officer.”
“I want to apologise to the Navy for my recent comments to the crew of the TR,” Modly said in a statement Monday night, only a few hours after his office released another statement saying, “I stand by every word I said, even, regrettably any profanity that may have been used for emphasis.”
“I do not think Captain Brett Crozier is naïve nor stupid,” he 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.”
The acting secretary said that it was because Crozier is not stupid that it is likely “he sent his alarming email with the intention of getting it into the public domain in an effort to draw public attention to the situation on his ship.”
“I also want to apologise directly to Captain Crozier, his family, and the entire crew of the Theodore Roosevelt for any pain my remarks may have caused,” Modly said in his apology statement.
Esper defended Modly’s decision to relieve Crozier on Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union,” saying the “tough decision” was “based on [Modly’s] view that he had lost faith and confidence in the captain based on his actions.”
“I think it’s just another example of how we hold leaders accountable for their actions,” Esper said.
Modly’s remarks aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt, which were reportedly not shared with Pentagon leadership or the White House beforehand, prompted a number of Democratic lawmakers to call for him to either step down or be fired.
During a White House press briefing Monday evening, before the apology statement was released, President Donald Trump suggested he would “get involved” in the matter.