Trump’s Navy secretary resigns a day after calling a fired captain “too naive or too stupid.”

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Thomas Modly.

Joshua Roberts / Reuters

  • Acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly has resigned, CNN and Politico reported on Tuesday.

  • Modly’s offer to resign came a day after he visited the USS Theodore Roosevelt in Guam and made a passionate 15-minute speech to the crew in which he struck the ship’s former commanders and struck China and the US media.

  • You can find more stories on the Business Insider homepage.

Acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly, who had fired the commanding officer who asked the Navy for help with a coronavirus outbreak of his aircraft carrier, stepped down on Tuesday and ended weeks of controversy as the service struggled to contain the virus.

Modly’s resignation was first reported by CNN and Politico. Defense Secretary Mark Esper said in a statement that he had accepted Modly’s resignation.

“He resigned on his own and placed the Navy and the seafarers above himself so that the USS Theodore Roosevelt and the Navy could move forward as an institution,” the statement said. “His care for the seafarers was real.”

In a resignation letter that USNI received for the first time, Modly said he had voluntarily left the Navy with a “heavy heart”.

“It has been an honor to serve as Undersecretary of the Navy and for the past five months as Acting Secretary of the Navy,” Modly’s letter to Esper said. “I am grateful for the trust you and President Trump have placed in me to perform these important tasks on behalf of our seafarers, Marines and the American people.

“Above all, I owe a lifetime of gratitude to every member of the Navy and Marine Corps team for the opportunity to serve for them and again for them,” he added.

Army Secretary of State James McPherson is slated to replace Modly, the Wall Street Journal reported. McPherson previously served as an Army soldier, later joined the Corps of Advocate General of the Navy and was promoted to Rear Admiral.

Modly had visited USS Theodore Roosevelt in Guam on Monday, where he launched Donald Trump in a passionate, explosive 15-minute speech to his 4,800 service members, resembling some of the President’s remarks, about the ship’s former commander, the media, and China.

The leaked audio prompted numerous democratic legislators, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Tweed Roosevelt, the great-grandson of President Theodore Roosevelt, to ask Modly to resign.

In his speech, Modly outlined his reasoning for the removal of Captain Brett Crozier on Thursday after Crozier wrote a four-page letter asking his naval colleagues to implement a “political solution” and to take “immediate and decisive action” while the ship dealt with a coronavirus outbreak.

By Sunday, over 150 service members on board the ship and Crozier had tested positive for the corona virus.

The letter was eventually passed on to the San Francisco Chronicle, which published its content last Tuesday. It wasn’t immediately clear how the letter found its way to the newspaper, but the Department of Defense said it had opened an investigation.

It was also unclear who the recipients of the letter were. Modly said it was aimed at over 20 people.

In his speech, Modly accused Crozier of violating military protocols and circumventing the chain of command by sending the letter to a group of people. He said there was a “right way” for Crozier to address his concerns, including permission from his immediate superior, who was on board his ship, to address them.

“I have no doubt that Captain Crozier did what he thought was the best interest and welfare for his crew,” said Modly. “Unfortunately, it did the opposite.”

Captain Brett Crozier.Captain Brett Crozier.
Captain Brett Crozier.

U.S. Navy / MCS 3rd Class Nicholas Huynh

There was a firestorm of criticism after Modly’s speech leaked to several media organizations, including insiders. In it, Modly explained his reasons for the dismissal and expressed his support for the crew.

“I thought that he was A. too naive or too stupid to be the commanding officer if he did not believe that information would not come out to the public from a ship in this information age in which we live like this, “said Modly. “The alternative is that he did it on purpose.”

Modly, who once served as a helicopter pilot in the Navy, described Crozier’s actions as “betrayal” and “great controversy” that spawned “a martyr CO”.

“I understand that you love the guy. It’s good that you love him,” Modly told the crew. “But you don’t have to love him.”

In a statement on Monday, Modly said that “the words spoken came from the heart and were intended for” the sailors on board the ship.

“I stand by every word I say and, unfortunately, every obscenity used to emphasize it,” said Modly. “Anyone who has served on a naval ship would understand. I ask, but don’t expect people to read it completely.”

Modly later apologized on Monday and returned his comments aboard the ship.

“Let me be clear: I don’t think Captain Brett Crozier is naive or stupid,” he said. “I think and have always believed that he was the opposite. We choose our commanders with great care. Captain Crozier is smart and passionate.”

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