Navy Captain Brett Crozier, who’d led the U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt, was abruptly fired after a letter in which he’d demanded assistance for his sailors amidst the Coronavirus outbreak was leaked to the media. This Monday, acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly, went on an angry public rant against Crozier shortly after the firing, insisting in remarks broadcast over his former ship’s public address system that the captain may have been “too naive or too stupid” to run the ship effectively. Now, after mounting condemnation and even some calls for his removal, Modly has apologized for his remarks.
‘I want to apologize to the Navy for my recent comments to the crew of the TR. Let me be clear: I do not think Captain Brett Crozier is naive or stupid. I think, and always believed him to be the opposite…. Captain Crozier is smart and passionate. I believe, precisely because he is not naive or stupid, that he sent his alarming email with the intention of getting it to the public domain in an attempt to draw public attention to the situation on his ship.’
He added, more directly:
‘I apologize for any confusion this choice of words may have caused. I also want to apologize to directly to Captain Crozier, his family, and the entire crew of the Theodore Roosevelt for any pain my remarks may have caused.’
Modly issues apology to crew of TR, Croizer. pic.twitter.com/pnAXKjx0ZF
— Sam LaGrone (@samlagrone) April 7, 2020
Modly is attempting to recast his opposition to Crozier outside the realm of petty personal attacks, but even what the captain actually did, on its face, is not some kind of deadly breach of command.
The Navy had been declining to allow sailors to quarantine off the ship, and the virus had been spreading among those on board — a full 173 cases have since been confirmed among the crew, according to CNN. Although the virus has at times been touted as a special threat to those who are elderly or otherwise immunocompromised, fundamentally, those who’ve fallen ill and suffered the worst effects of the deadly respiratory disease have been across all age groups.
Crozier had written:
‘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.’
The captain, for his part, got a hero’s send-off from the ship. Videos widely circulated showing sailors cheering for him as he departed for what was to be his final time aboard.
In his original angry rant, Modly actually bemoaned these cheers, admonishing sailors, in reference to the controversy that the captain’s letter’s emergence helped drive:
‘Think about that when you cheer the man off the ship who exposed you to that. I understand you love the guy. It’s good that you love him. But you’re not required to love him.’
Likely, they don’t care one bit about political tumult for those high up the chain of command who are stumbling through responding to a pandemic. They care, in fact, about the attempts to protect their safety that Crozier undertook.