Acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly resigned Tuesday after facing a backlash over his attack on Capt. Brett Crozier, who was fired for asking his superiors for permission to evacuate crew members ill with COVID-19 from the USS Theodore Roosevelt. Modly, who initially stood by his remarks but apologized late Monday, submitted his resignation to Defense Secretary Mark Esper, reports the Washington Post. Esper said Tuesday that he had "the greatest respect for anyone who serves our country, and who places the greater good above all else, adding: "Secretary Modly did that today, and I wish him all the best." Trump, asked about the resignation, said he did not push for it and he thought it was a "very unselfish thing" for Modly to do.
Modly told crew members Monday that Crozier was "too naive or too stupid to be the commanding officer of a ship like this." In a tirade broadcast over the ship's loudspeaker system, Modly accused the captain of "betraying" the Navy with his urgent memo to leadership, Politico reports. Even after he apologized Monday, Modly continued to insist that Crozier had written the letter knowing it would be leaked and cause an uproar. The captain "sent his alarming email with the intention of it getting into the public domain in an effort to draw public attention to the situation on his ship," Modly said. CNN reports that at least 173 of the ship's crew have now tested positive for the coronavirus, as well as Crozier himself. At least 2,000 crew members have now been moved ashore in Guam. (Sailors gave Crozier a rousing farewell on Friday.)