Defense secretary reportedly made Navy chief apologize for ‘stupid’ captain remarks

Defense Secretary Mark Esper directed acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly to apologize for his remarks where he called the fired captain of the USS Theodore Roosevelt “stupid” and “naive” in an address to those on the ship, according to reports.

Esper’s request was made through his staff, who communicated to Modly that he must apologize for his comments, according to CNN.

A defense official, meanwhile, told Foreign Policy magazine that Modly did not discuss the speech with Pentagon leadership or the White House before delivering the now-viral remarks.

The message from Esper came just hours after Modly defended his remarks on Monday, saying in a statement, “I stand by every word I said.”

Pressure began to mount after House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith (D-Wash.) issued a call for Modly’s resignation, calling his actions “a tone-deaf approach more focused on personal ego than one of the calm, steady leadership we so desperately need in this crisis.”

President Trump also added fuel to the controversy when he said Monday afternoon during the daily coronavirus briefing that he “may look into” the matter.

“I may look into it only from the standpoint that something should be resolved because I’m hearing good things about both people,” the commander in chief told reporters.

Hours later, the embattled Navy secretary released a second statement formally apologizing for his actions.

“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 public attention to the situation on his ship. I apologize for any confusion this choice of words may have caused,” his new statement read.

Modly trashed Crozier to his former crew on the USS Theodore Roosevelt over an email the captain sent raising alarms about an outbreak of the deadly virus aboard the ship. The email was eventually leaked to the press.

“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 told the crew of Crozier’s actions.

Esper and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark A. Milley both signed off on Crozier’s firing, according to the Washington Post. The paper reports that the two trusted in Modly’s decision to remove him.

Since Crozier raised awareness about the outbreak on the ship, 230 sailors aboard have tested positive for the virus.

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