Acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly resigned after being criticized for addressing the USS Theodore Roosevelt’s crew with profanity and calling the ship’s captain “stupid.” 

Modly fired Capt. Brett Crozier after he asked for help for his 5,000 sailors who were being exposed to the coronavirus onboard. In a speech given to the crew aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt, Modly called Crozer’s actions “naive” and “stupid.” 

Modly then resigned. “He resigned on his own accord, putting the Navy and Sailors above self so that the USS Theodore Roosevelt, and the Navy as an institution, can move forward,” said Defense Secretary Mark Esper

In his resignation letter, Modly said, “More than anything, I owe every member of the Navy and Marine Corps team a lifetime of gratitude for the opportunity to serve for them, and with them, once again. The men and women of the Department of the Navy deserve a continuity of civilian leadership befitting our great Republic, and the decisive naval force that secures our way of life.”


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In a memo to the force, Modly was more remorseful. “You are justified in being angry with me about that. There is no excuse, but perhaps a glimpse of understanding, and hopefully empathy. I am deeply sorry for some of the words and for how they spread across the media landscape like a wildfire,” he wrote.

Former officials said that the speech, as well as the abrupt firing of Crozier before an investigation was conducted, crossed a line. 

Retired Vice Adm. John Miller, former commander of 5th Fleet, said, “The final adjudication is with the chief of naval personnel. “Having Modly, who is senior to everyone in uniform in the Navy, be the relieving officer makes that whole review process more difficult.”

Modly’s resignation is just the latest in a string of scandals involving the Navy’s leadership. With the latest controversy happening during the coronavirus pandemic, many are worried that it projects a weaker image of America. 

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