WASHINGTON: Acting US Navy Secretary Thomas Modly, in a surprise speech aboard a coronavirus-stricken US aircraft carrier, told the crew that their fired captain may have been "stupid", officials told Reuters on Monday (Apr 6).
Modly relieved Captain Brett Crozier of his command of the Theodore Roosevelt on Thursday after the public leak of a scathing letter in which Crozier called on the Navy for stronger action to halt the spread of the virus aboard the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier.
The officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said Modly made the speech over the weekend while the ship was docked in Guam, and it was broadcast on the ship's speakers. The news was first reported by Reuters.
The Navy declined to comment.
The backlash to Modly's decision to fire Crozier has been intense. In videos posted online, sailors on the Theodore Roosevelt applauded Crozier and hailed him as a hero, out to defend his crew - even at great personal cost to his career.
READ: Pentagon chief defends firing of navy captain who voiced virus concern
In an interview with Reuters on Friday, Modly said he did not know if Crozier would face disciplinary action, saying it would be up to a probe that will look into issues surrounding "communications" and the chain of command that led to the incident.
In his four-page letter, Crozier, who took command in November, described a bleak situation aboard the carrier as more of his crew began falling ill.
He called for "decisive action": Removing more than 4,000 sailors from the ship and isolating them, and wrote that unless the Navy acted immediately it would be failing to properly safeguard "our most trusted asset - our sailors".
The letter put the Pentagon on the defensive and alarmed the families of those on the vessel, whose home port is in San Diego. Modly has said that Crozier failed to safeguard the confidentiality of the letter.