By Servet Gunerigok
WASHINGTON (AA) - The acting chief of the U.S. navy apologized Monday for criticizing the captain of the coronavirus-hit USS Theodore Roosevelt aircraft carrier who he relieved of command for raising concerns over the outbreak.
Thomas Modly launched the broadside during surprise remarks to the aircraft carrier's crew, transcripts and audio recordings of which were leaked to the media.
He said Capt. Brett Crozier was either "too naive or too stupid" to remain in command if he thought his letter to Navy leaders warning of the outbreak would not be leaked to the press.
"Let me be clear: I do not think Captain Brett Crozier is naive or stupid. I think, and always believed him to be the opposite," Modly said in a statement. "I believe, precisely because he is not naive or stupid, that he sent his alarming email with the intention of getting it to the public domain in an attempt to draw public attention to the situation on his ship."
"I apologize for any confusion this choice of words may have caused. I also want to directly apologize to Captain Crozier, his family, and the entire crew of the Theodore Roosevelt for any pain my remarks may have caused," he added.
Crozier departed the USS Theodore Roosevelt to raucous cheers from his crew last week after being fired by Modly for raising the alarm on the spread of the coronavirus on the ship.
The Theodore Roosevelt, which has a crew of over 4,000 sailors, has been docked in Guam since March 27 as the Pentagon tries to tamp down the COVID-19 outbreak on board the ship.
Before it arrived for the scheduled port visit, three sailors tested positive for the disease. Half of the sailors on board have since been tested for the virus, with 155 confirmed to be infected, according to data released Sunday by the Navy.
*Michael Hernandez contributed to this story