As of Monday, acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly was standing by his attack on the fired captain of a Navy aircraft carrier who'd warned about COVID-19 spreading on his ship in a letter leaked to the media. "I stand by every word I said, even, regrettably any profanity that may have been used for emphasis," Modly said a day after telling crew members of the USS Theodore Roosevelt in Guam that Capt. Brett Crozier had committed an act of "betrayal" in seeking help outside the chain of command and was "too naive or too stupid to be a commanding officer of a ship like this" if he didn't assume his letter would leak. But within hours came a change of heart. "Let me be clear, I do not think Captain Brett Crozier is naïve nor stupid," Modly said shortly after President Trump promised to intervene, per NBC News.
"I believe, precisely because he is not naive and stupid, that he sent his alarming email with the intention of getting it into the public domain in an effort to draw public attention to the situation on his ship," Modly continued, apologizing to Crozier, whom he described as "smart and passionate." He also apologized to "the entire crew of the Theodore Roosevelt for any pain my remarks may have caused." His initial statement Monday had been followed by calls that he, too, be removed from his post. Modly's "decision to address the sailors on the Roosevelt and personally attack Captain Crozier shows a tone-deaf approach more focused on personal ego than one of the calm, steady leadership we so desperately need in this crisis," House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith said, per the Hill. (Crozier now has the coronavirus.)