WASHINGTON, April 29 (Reuters) – The U.S. Navy on Wednesday said that it would carry out a broader review into the spread of the coronavirus aboard an aircraft carrier, a move likely to delay a decision on the future of the ship’s fired captain.
Captain Brett Crozier was relieved of command of the carrier Theodore Roosevelt after the leak of a letter he wrote calling on the Navy for stronger measures to protect the crew.
Last week, the Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Mike Gilday recommended after a preliminary investigation that Crozier be reinstated.
“I have unanswered questions that the preliminary inquiry has identified and that can only be answered by a deeper review,” acting U.S. Navy Secretary James McPherson said in a statement.
“Therefore, I am directing Admiral Gilday to conduct a follow-on command investigation,” McPherson said.
He added that the report would look to provide a “more fulsome understanding of the sequence of events, actions, and decisions of the chain of command.”
The move appears to be in line with the wishes of U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper, who had been in favor of receiving a completed written investigation before making any decisions.
Esper had received a verbal briefing on the preliminary inquiry but felt that was insufficient to go forward on the Navy’s recommendations.
Officials have told Reuters that Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley was also in favor of a broader review.
At a White House event on Wednesday, President Donald Trump did not weigh in on whether he thought Crozier should be reinstated.
“He decides to be Ernest Hemingway,” Trump said, referring to the captain’s letter, but added that Crozier had a bad day and was a good man otherwise.
Crozier is one of the 940 sailors from the Roosevelt’s 4,800-member crew who have tested positive for the coronavirus, effectively taking one of the Navy’s most powerful ships out of operation.
Crozier was fired by the Navy’s top civilian, then-acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly, against the recommendations of uniformed leaders.
Modly’s decision backfired badly, as members of the crew hailed their captain as a hero for risking his career out of concern for their health in an emotional sendoff captured on video that went viral on social media.
Embarrassed, Modly then compounded his problems by flying out to the carrier to ridicule Crozier over the leak and question his character in a speech to the Roosevelt’s crew, which also leaked to the media. Modly then resigned. (Reporting by Idrees Ali and Phil Stewart. Additional reporting by Steve Holland; Editing by Bill Berkrot and Marguerita Choy)
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