Thomas Modly, acting Secretary of the US Navy, reportedly belittled Capt. Brett Crozier of the USS Theodore Roosevelt after the captain was relieved of his command for sending a letter asking for his sailors to be evacuated from the ship due to a rapidly spreading coronavirus outbreak on board.
The inflammatory comments were reportedly from a speech Mr Modly gave to sailors on board the USS Theodore Roosevelt. The Daily Caller claims it obtained a transcript of the speech.
“If [Crozier] didn’t think, in my opinion, that [the letter] wasn’t going to get out into the public, in this day and information age that we line in, then he was either A, too naive or too stupid to be a commanding officer of a ship like this,” Mr Modly said. “The alternative is that he did this on purpose.”
Mr Modly said the letter was a “betrayal of trust” and that it contained “sensitive information” about the condition of the carrier.
More than 100 sailors from the USS Theodore Roosevelt – including Mr Crozier – have tested positive for COVID-19 since the outbreak began on the ship.
Videos of Mr Crozier leaving the USS Theodore Roosevelt went viral as hundreds of sailors packed in to see the commanding officer depart, cheering and chanting his name as he left.
Mr Crozier was widely praised for sounding the alarm to try to secure the safety of his crew despite the professional costs.
Mr Modly reportedly chastised the sailors for cheering for Mr Crozier.
“So think about [him betraying the Navy’s trust] when you cheer the man off the ship who exposed you to that,” Modly said. “I understand you love the guy. It’s good that you love him. But you’re not required to love him.”
He also criticised Mr Crozier for not going through proper chain of command channels to address his needs, and accused the media of having an agenda.
“And I’m gonna tell you something, all of you, there is never a situation where you should consider the media a part of your chain of command,” Mr Modly said, apparently warning his sailors not to whistleblow. “The media has an agenda and the agenda that they have depends on which side of the political aisle they sit, and I’m sorry that’s the way the country is now, but its the truth. And so they use it to divide us and use it to embarrass the Navy. They use it to embarrass you.”
Mr Modly’s office has not returned a request for comment.