Defense Secretary Defends Firing of Navy Captain Who Warned of Coronavirus Spread
Defense Secretary Mark Esper said Sunday that he supported acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly’s decision to fire the Navy captain who wrote a letter to his superiors about his concerns of the coronavirus pandemic aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt.
“I think acting Secretary Modly made a very tough decision, a decision that I support. It was based on his view that he had lost faith and confidence in the captain based on his actions,” Esper said on CNN. “It was supported by Navy leadership.”
Navy Capt. Brett Crozier was relieved of his post Thursday, two days after his letter appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle. In the letter, Crozier implored his bosses to provide resources for the more than 5,000 people aboard the ship, which has been docked in Guam.
“This will require a political solution but it is the right thing to do,” Crozier 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.”
So far, at least 155 sailors aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt have tested positive for coronavirus, Esper said. But the crew cannot be evacuated.
“You actually cannot do that because there’s nuclear reactors to be run, you have very sensitive equipment, you have weapons on board that ship,” he said on CNN. “So it’s how you manage the crew, make sure you’re protecting them, segregating, treating those that need treated while at the same time maintaining the readiness of the ship in case it’s called upon to get to sea quickly.”
Esper also insisted that the Navy took action as soon as the first case was reported.
Crozier’s firing has drawn reactions from both side of the aisle. On Saturday, President Trump called the letter “inappropriate.”
“I thought it was terrible what he did, to write a letter. I mean, this isn’t a class on literature. This is a captain of a massive ship that’s nuclear powered, and he shouldn’t be talking that way in a letter. He could call and ask and suggest,” Trump told reporters during a White House briefing on coronavirus. “I thought it looked terrible, to be honest with you.”
But Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden applauded the captain.
“Captain Crozier was faithful to his duty — both to his sailors and his country,” the former vice president tweeted. “Navy leadership sent a chilling message about speaking truth to power. The poor judgment here belongs to the Trump Admin, not a courageous officer trying to protect his sailors.”
©2020 New York Daily News
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
In The News
WASHINGTON (AP) — In an extraordinary rebuke, former defense secretary Jim Mattis on Wednesday denounced President Donald Trump's heavy-handed use of military force to quell protests near the White House and said his former boss was setting up a “false conflict" between the military and civilian... Read More
WASHINGTON - Defense Secretary Mark Esper said Wednesday he opposes the use of active-duty military to police U.S. cities and contain current street protests over the death of George Floyd. "I've always believed and continue to believe that the National Guard is best suited for performing... Read More
WASHINGTON — Glenn Fine, a top official in the Pentagon inspector general’s office, stepped down Tuesday in the latest installment of a recent drama over internal oversight in the Trump administration. Fine, who is one of five inspectors general to have been recently demoted or dismissed... Read More
Joe Biden emerged Monday from his stay-at-home lockdown after more than 10 weeks to mark Memorial Day with a tribute to veterans. The presumptive Democratic presidential nominee and his wife, Jill, visited the Veterans Memorial Park at the Delaware Memorial Bridge to lay a wreath of... Read More
After an effort to add the names of 74 sailors to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial hit a roadblock in the Senate, supporters of inscribing the names of the men who died aboard the USS Frank E. Evans are continuing to press for their inclusion. In a... Read More
(AP) — Americans prepared to mark a Memorial Day like no other as the coronavirus pandemic upended traditional commemorations. U.S. authorities warned beach-goers to heed social distancing rules to avoid a resurgence of the virus that has infected 5.4 million people worldwide and killed over 345,000,... Read More