Acting US Navy chief resigns over ship virus row

The acting US Navy secretary has submitted his resignation amid criticisms of his response to a ship with a Covid-19 outbreak, US media say.

Thomas Modly had ousted the captain of the USS Roosevelt aircraft carrier after he pleaded for help in a letter leaked to the public.

Mr Modly had apologised on Monday after he called Captain Brett Crozier’s actions “naïve” and “stupid”.

Army Undersecretary James McPherson is expected to replace Mr Modly.

Mr Modly told the crew of the USS Theodore Roosevelt on Monday that what their former captain did “was very, very wrong” and amounted to “a betrayal of trust with me, with his chain of command”, according to recordings leaked to US media.

“If he didn’t think that information was going to get out into the public…then he was A) too naïve or too stupid to be the commanding officer of a ship like this,” Mr Modly said. “The alternative is he did it on purpose.”

Amid criticisms from lawmakers, Mr Modly issued an apology the same day, saying: “I do not think Captain Brett Crozier is naïve nor stupid. I think, and always believed him to be the opposite.”

Captain Crozier sent a letter to defence officials on 30 March begging for assistance with a coronavirus outbreak on his vessel, which has more than 4,000 crewmembers.

“We are not at war. Sailors do not need to die,” he wrote, requesting that nearly the entire crew be quarantined.

Captain Crozier was fired last week, and footage of his crew sending him off with cheers and applause went viral.

President Donald Trump weighed in on Monday, telling reporters he may get involved in the row.

“You have two good gentlemen and they’re arguing. I’m good at resolving arguments,” he said.

The president said he “heard very good things” about Captain Crozier and did not want his career to be ruined “for having a bad day”, but added that “the letter should not have been sent to many people unclassified”.

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