WASHINGTON -Acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly has submitted a letter of resignation to Defense Secretary Mark Esper.

That’s according to an official who spoke on condition of anonymity in order to discuss the matter before an official announcement.

The official says Modly has also told staff he is quitting.

Modly had created a controversy by firing the captain of the USS Theodore Roosevelt last week, saying Capt. Brett E. Crozier had shown “extremely poor judgment” in widely distributing by email a letter calling for urgent help with the COVID-19 outbreak.

Modly then flew to the ship, at port in Guam, and delivered a speech to the crew in which he lambasted Crozier, saying he was either “too naive or too stupid” to be in charge of an aircraft carrier. On Monday night, at Esper’s insistence, Modly issued a public apology, but by then the calls among Democrats in Congress for his resignation were mounting.

Modly issued a written apology after President Donald Trump, at a White House news conference, described his comments about Capt. Brett E. Crozier as “rough.”

Modly had relieved Crozier of command of the aircraft carrier last week. He said he’d lost confidence in Crozier for having shown “extremely poor judgment” in widely distributing a memo pleading for an accelerated evacuation of the crew members to protect their health.

On Tuesday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Modly should lose his job.

“Sadly, Acting Secretary Modly’s actions and words demonstrate his failure to prioritize the force protection of our troops,” Pelosi, D-Calif., said in a written statement. “He showed a serious lack of the sound judgment and strong leadership needed during this time. Acting Secretary Modly must be removed from his position or resign.”

At least 173 sailors aboard the ship had tested positive for the coronavirus as of Monday. About 2,000 of the 4,865 crew members had been taken off the ship to be tested.

On Sunday, Modly flew to Guam to address sailors on the aircraft carrier who had cheered their support of Crozier as he departed the ship on Friday. He reprimanded them, saying they were overlooking their most basic duty to defend U.S. interests.

“So think about that when you cheer the man off the ship who exposed you to that,” he said. “I understand you love the guy. It’s good that you love him. But you’re not required to love him.”

Late Monday, Modly backtracked.

“I apologize for any confusion this choice of words may have caused,” he wrote, referring to his speech aboard the Roosevelt on Sunday. “I also want to apologize directly to Captain Crozier, his family, and the entire crew of the Theodore Roosevelt for any pain my remarks may have caused.”

Trump told reporters at the White House on Monday that he might get involved, agreeing that Modly’s criticism of Crozier was “a rough statement.”

He said Crozier made a mistake when he sent a memo to several people laying out his concerns about the crew and the virus.

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© © Copyright 2020, Winston-Salem Journal, Winston-Salem, NC

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