Listen: Acting Navy Secretary Calls Fired Captain ‘Stupid’ in Leaked Speech

Thomas Modly. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Brett Crozier, the former captain of the USS Theodore Roosevelt, committed a “betrayal” when he wrote a letter warning Navy leadership of a COVID-19 outbreak on the aircraft carrier, Acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas Modly told the ship’s crew Monday. In a speech delivered over the ship’s PA system, Modly said Crozier should have known that the letter would be made public. If he didn’t realize that, Modly said, he was either “too naïve or too stupid to be a commanding officer.”

“If he didn’t think, in my opinion, that this information wasn’t going to get out to the public, in this day and information age that we live in, then he was either (a) too naïve or too stupid to be a commanding officer of a ship like this,” Modly said in a speech that was itself quickly made public. “The alternative is that he did this on purpose.”

In a recording of Modly remarks, obtained by Task and Purpose, sailors can be heard reacting to the acting secretary’s insult. “What the fuck?” one seems to yell.

Skip ahead to 1:44 in the audio below to hear the key statement.

“It was a betrayal of trust with me, with his chain of command, with you,” Modly says. Not long after, someone shouts, “He was just trying to help us!”

In a statement Monday, Modly defended his remarks: “I stand by every word I said, even, regrettable any profanity that may have been used for emphasis. Anyone who has served on a Navy ship would understand.”

Crozier was fired last week after his letter was published in the San Francisco Chronicle. Modly said that Crozier “unnecessarily” caused panic and “demonstrated extremely poor judgement” with his letter.

When Crozier left the USS Theodore Roosevelt Friday, he received a wild ovation from the ship’s crew. Over the weekend, though, he was attacked by the commander-in-chief. President Trump said Saturday that Crozier, who has tested positive for COVID-19, did something “terrible” when he wrote a letter to try to protect the sailors on his ship.

Listen: Acting Navy Secretary Calls Fired Captain ‘Stupid’