Leaked Audio Reveals Acting Navy Secretary Slamming the Coronavirus Whistleblower Captain: ‘Too Naive or Too Stupid’

Task & Purpose obtained a file of Sunday's address.
In this Nov. 15, 2019, photo U.S. Navy Capt. Brett Crozier, commanding officer of the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71), addresses the crew during an all-hands call on the ship's flight deck while conducting routine operations in the Easter

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The Navy captain relieved of duty for blowing the whistle on his ship’s coronavirus outbreak was “naive” or “stupid” for thinking his actions wouldn’t leak to the press, according to audio of Acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly’s address to the crew, obtained by Task & Purpose.

Speaking over the public address system of the U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt, Modly laid into former commander Capt. Brett Crozier and urged sailors that it was their duty to help during the outbreak, “not to complain,” as Crozier did.

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“If he didn't think, in my opinion, that this information wasn't going to get out into the public, in this day and information age that we live in, then he was either A, too naive, or too stupid to be a commanding officer of a ship like this,” Modly said Sunday, adding that crewmembers should never “consider the media as a part of your chain of command.”

Crozier was fired after a letter he sent to Navy officials pleading for better care for his crew — dozens of whom had become infected with coronavirus — leaked to the San Francisco Chronicle. He remains in the Navy but no longer leads the U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt. Modly has said previously that Crozier should’ve taken greater effort to convey his message securely and through proper chains of command.

In the letter, Crozier said his 4,000-plus crew couldn’t properly isolate and urged for quarantine space onshore in Guam, where the ship is docked. “We are not at war. Sailors do not need to die,” he wrote.

Crew members,150 of whom now have coronavirus, cheered Crozier as he left the ship for the last time.

During his address to the crew Sunday, Modly said that while he understood the sailors’ love for Crozier, he disliked that Crozier described the Navy as not being at war.

“We’re not technically at war, but let me tell you something, the only reason we’re dealing with this right now is because a big authoritarian regime called China was not forthcoming about what was happening with this virus,” Modly said.

Modly also said the letter — apart from being a “betrayal of trust with me” and other members of the Navy — left crewmembers onshore feeling “demoralized.”

“Everyone is scared about this thing, but I’ll tell you something, if this ship was in combat and there were hypersonic missiles coming at it, you’d be pretty fucking scared too,” Modly said. “But you do your jobs. And that’s what I expect you to do.”

The Navy did not immediately respond to a VICE News request for comment.

Cover: In this Nov. 15, 2019, photo U.S. Navy Capt. Brett Crozier, commanding officer of the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71), addresses the crew during an all-hands call on the ship's flight deck while conducting routine operations in the Eastern Pacific Ocean. (U.S. Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Nicholas Huynh via AP)