Things are going from bad to worse for the US Navy, as they scramble to quash a public relations disaster over the coronavirus-stricken aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt, the New York Times reported.
Capt. Brett E. Crozier, the Navy captain who was removed from command of the ship, has apparently tested positive for Covid-19, according to two Naval Academy classmates of Crozier’s who are close to him and his family, the report said.
The commander began exhibiting symptoms before he was removed from the warship on Thursday, two of his classmates said.
Crozier was fired following a leak to The San Francisco Chronicle of a letter he had emailed to Navy leaders that detailed the failures on the service’s part to provide the necessary resources to swiftly move sailors off the carrier and disinfect areas on board as the virus spread through the ship, the report said.
Thomas B. Modly, the acting secretary of the Navy, said he had lost confidence in Crozier’s ability to command the ship effectively as it dealt with the evolving crisis after Crozier sent the letter on an unclassified email system to 20 to 30 people, the reoprt said.
Sending such a letter, Modly said, caused unnecessary alarm about the operational readiness of the ship and undermined the chain of command. “In sending it out pretty broadly, he did not take care to ensure that it couldn’t be leaked,” Modly said. “And that’s part of his responsibility.”
In a briefing Saturday, President Trump offered support for Modly’s decision. “He shouldn’t be talking that way in a letter,” the president said of Crozier. “I thought it was terrible what he did.”
Secretary of Defense Mark T. Esper said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union” that there were 155 confirmed cases of Covid-19 among sailors aboard the aircraft carrier, and that more than half of the ship had been tested, the report said.
“There is an investigation ongoing,” Esper said of Crozier’s actions. “All the services at times relieve commanders without the benefit of an investigation up front because they’ve lost confidence in them. It’s certainly not unique to the Navy.”
The news of Crozier’s diagnosis is likely to fuel further skepticism of the Navy’s handling of the outbreak aboard the aircraft carrier, which has already received notable criticism from the rank and file, the report said.
On Friday, videos circulated showing hundreds of sailors aboard the Roosevelt cheering “Captain Crozier! Captain Crozier!” as he disembarked the ship.
Crozier stood silently and saluted the heroic farewell.
On Sunday, former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. expressed criticism of the Navy’s actions on ABC’s “This Week,” saying, “I think it’s close to criminal the way they’re dealing with this guy.”
“I think he should have a commendation rather than be fired,” Biden added.