U.S. House Speaker wants Navy leader's removal, despite apology

by Reuters
Tuesday, 7 April 2020 19:37 GMT

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WASHINGTON, April 7 (Reuters) - U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi called on Tuesday for the removal of Acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly, despite Modly's apology for ridiculing the commander of a coronavirus-stricken aircraft carrier.

"Sadly, Acting Secretary Modly's actions and words demonstrate his failure to prioritize the force protection of our troops," Pelosi said in a statement.

The statement by the House leader came after a fellow Democrat, House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith, reiterated his call for Modly's removal.

Sources said Modly had offered to resign.

Smith, whose committee oversees the U.S. Department of Defense, told reporters on a conference call it was hard to imagine Navy members having respect for Modly, after his remarks ridiculing Captain Brett Crozier.

Crozier, who took command of the Theodore Roosevelt in November and was revered by his crew, had written a four-page letter describing a bleak situation aboard the carrier as more of his crew began falling ill.

He was relieved of his position aboard the carrier after his letter became public, prompting an outcry. Modly made a surprise address to the ship's crew on Monday, saying Crozier was either "too naive or too stupid" to command the carrier, heightening the controversy.

Modly apologized on Monday, but Pelosi and Smith said that was not enough to overcome what they described as his highly inappropriate comments.

"He showed a serious lack of the sound judgment and strong leadership needed during this time. Acting Secretary Modly must be removed from his position or resign," Pelosi said.

(Reporting by Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

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