Defense Secretary Mark Esper defended the firing of the Navy captain who was relieved of command after raising concerns over the spread of COVID-19 on his ship, during Sunday morning interviews.
On Thursday, acting Navy secretary Thomas Modly announced Captain Brett Crozier was relieved of command due to showing “extremely poor judgment” by sending out a memo to Navy higher-ups about the dire COVID-19 infection rate on his ship.
When pressed by CNN’s Jake Tapper about Crozier’s ouster, Esper said that Modly made “a very tough decision” that he supports.
“It was supported by Navy leadership,” Esper said. “And I think it’s just another example how we hold leaders accountable for their actions.”
Esper added that “there is an investigation ongoing” into the reasoning behind Crozier’s firing, before saying that Modly lacked “faith and confidence” that Crozier could continue in his position as captain of the ship.
“That is not unheard of,” Esper said. “All the services at time relieve commanders without the benefit of an investigation up front because they have lost confidence in them.”
Esper argued that the lack of an investigation is “certainly not unique” to the Navy, which he said has “a culture of swiftly and decisively removing captains if they lose confidence in them.”
When asked about Modly reportedly telling a colleague that President Trump wanted Crozier fired, Esper insisted that the firing was solely Modly’s decision.
“He briefed me about it,” Esper said. “And I took the advice of the CNO and General Milley with regard to it. And I told him I would support his decision.”
Watch Esper’s remarks on CNN below:
Esper on the firing of a Navy commander after writing a memo saying that crew needed help after the coronavirus hit his ship: "I think Acting Secretary Modly made a very tough decision … It's just another example how we hold leaders accountable for their actions" #CNNSOTU pic.twitter.com/k90BvtwFNM
— CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) April 5, 2020
Esper shared a similar view on ABC News Sunday morning as well, saying that Modly made a “tough call” and that he has “full faith and confidence” in him.
Watch Esper’s remarks on ABC News below:
Pressed on whether it was appropriate to fire Navy ship captain over leaked letter, Sec. of Defense Mark Esper tells @gstephanopoulos he supports the decision: "It's an issue of trust and confidence in the captain of the ship." https://t.co/yUreMWbwos pic.twitter.com/osqGmHZ0tA
— This Week (@ThisWeekABC) April 5, 2020