Report: Esper Told Acting Navy Secretary To Apologize To Fired Captain

Defense Secretary Mark Esper speaks during a press conference at Parliament of New South Wales on August 04, 2019 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Lisa Maree Williams/Getty Images)
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April 7, 2020 1:17 p.m.

Acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly’s apology to former Navy Captain Brett Crozier on Monday apparently did not come about on his own.

Department of Defense Secretary Mark Esper told Modly via office staffers to apologize for smearing Crozier during a rant to the ex-captain’s former crew on the USS Theodore Roosevelt, CNN reported Tuesday.

Modly had called Crozier “naive” and “stupid” on Monday morning while railing against the captain’s decision to send a memo last week pressing Navy higher-ups to protect his crew against the spread of COVID-19 on the ship. Modly subsequently fired the captain, who tested positive for the coronavirus several days ago, and accused him of leaking the email to the press.

The acting secretary later apologized on Monday night for “any pain my remarks may have caused,” but still claimed Crozier had written the memo “with the intention of getting it into the public domain.”

Christopher Sherwood, a spokesperson for the Pentagon, told TPM he could not confirm the CNN report.

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