US navy captain fired for voicing virus concern tests positive: report
WASHINGTON, April 6, 2020 (BSS/AFP) – The US naval commander whose widely
publicized plea for help for his coronavirus-affected crew led to his
dismissal has reportedly himself tested positive for the disease.
Captain Brett Crozier’s COVID-19 test result was reported Sunday by the New
York Times, just hours after US Defense Secretary Mark Esper defended the
Esper told ABC that Navy Secretary Thomas Modly had “made a tough decision,
tough call” in deciding to fire Crozier from his command of the aircraft
carrier USS Roosevelt, now docked in Guam.
Asked about a report that President Donald Trump wanted Crozier fired,
Esper replied, “This was the secretary’s call. He came and briefed me … It
was the secretary’s call. I told him I would support it.”
The firing was widely condemned as a callous and unfair punishment of a
respected officer who was looking out for the welfare of his crew when he
implored his superiors to let him quickly vacate the ship after it docked in
“We are not at war,” Crozier wrote in a letter that leaked to the press.
“Sailors do not need to die.”
But some senior Pentagon officials said Crozier erred by letting his plea
Crozier “demonstrated extremely poor judgment in the middle of a crisis,”
needlessly worrying family members and undermining the chain of command,
Trump, speaking in a news conference Saturday, supported the dismissal. “He
shouldn’t be talking that way in a letter,” he said of Crozier. “I thought it
was terrible what he did.”
The Times, in reporting Crozier’s test result, cited two of his former
classmates at the US Naval Academy. It said he had begun exhibiting symptoms
before leaving the ship on Thursday.
Hundreds of sailors cheered Crozier as he left the ship, as seen in video
that quickly went viral. Some called him a hero.
Democrats have also sharply criticized the dismissal.
Joe Biden, the leading Democratic candidate for president, condemned the
firing on Sunday, telling ABC it was “close to criminal.”
“I think he should have a commendation rather than be fired,”the former
vice president said.
And a statement from Democratic leaders of the House Armed Services
Committee said Crozier might not have handled the matter perfectly, but that
his dismissal was an “overreaction.”
– Protection and readiness –
Esper declined Sunday to say whether other Pentagon leaders agreed with the
firing, pointing to an ongoing investigation.
He told CNN that more than half the Roosevelt’s 4,800-member crew had now
been tested for the coronavirus. In all, 155 sailors tested positive but none
required hospitalization, he said.
Crozier’s dismissal came as the Pentagon struggles, amid the spreading
pandemic, to maintain the readiness of its air, sea and ground forces
“We have had to cancel exercises. We’ve had to constrain basic training,
for example,” Esper said, before adding, “We think those are all manageable.”
Esper pointed to the particular challenges facing the military — it is
impossible to respect social distancing in a crowded bomber plane or in the
confinement of a nuclear submarine, he told ABC.
He said the military overall was “ahead of the curve” in balancing troops’
health and military readiness.
The military has also been called to help the fight against the coronavirus
inside the US.
Trump said Saturday that 1,000 military personnel, mostly doctors and
nurses, would be deployed to help in New York City, the epicenter of the US
Troops have already been helping out at the Javits Convention Center, which
has been transformed into an enormous hospital.