Esper Won’t Rule Out Reinstating Fired Navy Captain Amid Probe Into Controversial Ouster

Secretary of Defense Mark Esper speaks during a joint press conference at Pentagon on March 05, 2020. (Photo by Yasin Ozturk/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
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April 10, 2020 11:16 a.m.

Defense Department Mark Esper indicated Friday morning that ex-Navy Captain Brett Crozier could potentially be reinstated after now-former acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly fired him for alerting high-ranking officials of the COVID-19 outbreak on Crozier’s ship.

CBS “This Morning” host Gayle King asked the Pentagon chief about Navy Chief Admiral Michael Gilday saying on Thursday that he was open to restoring Crozier’s position depending on the outcome of the investigation into the captain’s ouster.

Esper echoed Gilday’s comments, telling the CBS anchor that “we’ve taken nothing off the table.”

“My inclination is always to support the chain of command, and to take their recommendations seriously, so we’ll see how that plays out,” the defense secretary added.

Esper told King that while following the chain of command is “very important” in the armed services, “there are always extreme cases where going outside the chain of command makes sense.”

“That’s why we want to see where this investigation takes us,” Esper said.

Modly fired Crozier last week for sending a memo to Navy leadership urging them to take action as the coronavirus infection spread among the crew of the USS Theodore Roosevelt, the captain’s ship.

Esper defended the acting Navy secretary’s decision at the time, saying that it was “just another example how we hold leaders accountable for their actions.”

However, Modly came under fire on Monday after calling Crozier “too stupid” and “too naive” to be captain during a Trump-esque rant to Crozier’s crew. The secretary resigned the following day, and Navy leadership opened an investigation into Modly’s firing of the captain.

Watch Esper below:

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