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Modly berates former TR captain, now lawmaker calls for Modly to be fired

Rep. Elaine Luria said Acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly's words were "reprehensible." Hours later, Modly issued a public written apology.

WASHINGTON — There is new fallout following the firing last week of the USS Theodore Roosevelt's commanding officer.

The Acting Secretary of the Navy made a surprise visit to the aircraft carrier in Guam, and he spoke to the crew over the ship's public address system.

According to a leaked audio recording published Monday by "Task & Purpose," Acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas Modly had some choice words for Captain Brett Crozier.

On the recording, Modly berates the fired captain for having written a letter about the coronavirus outbreak aboard the Roosevelt and carbon-copying at least 20 people.

"If he didn't think -- in my opinion -- that that information wasn't going to get out to the public in this information age that we live in, then, he was A.) too naive or too stupid to be the commanding officer of a ship like this," Modly is heard on the recording. 

Navy officials later confirmed to several national media outlets that the audio was authentic.

Modly goes onto to call Crozier's act a "betrayal" and also warned the 4,800-member TR crew against talking to the media.

"There is no, no situation where you go to the media," Modly said. "Because the media has an  agenda... they use it to divide us and the embarrass the Navy."

Virginia Senator Tim Kaine said in response, "Secretary Modly's comments were completely inappropriate and beneath the office of the Secretary of the Navy."

Virginia Second District Representative Elaine Luria took it a step further.

"I think Secretary [of Defense Mark] Esper should fire Secretary Modly," said Luria in an interview with 13News Now. "Those words were reprehensible, especially at this time."

On Monday night, Modly issued a written public apology, saying he does not believe Capt. Brett E. Crozier is stupid or naive.

"I apologize for any confusion this choice of words may have caused," Modly wrote. "I also want to apologize directly to Captain Crozier, his family, and the entire crew of the Theodore Roosevelt for any pain my remarks may have caused."

According to a person familiar with the conversation, Defense Secretary Mark Esper’s staff told Modly he must apologize. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a private conversation.

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.