WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The captain of a U.S. aircraft carrier relieved of his command after seeking stronger measures in response to a coronavirus outbreak aboard his ship was given a hero’s ovation by his crew when he left the vessel, video posted on Twitter showed.
A brief clip showed Captain Brett Crozier walking down the gangplank of the Theodore Roosevelt as crew members repeatedly chanted “Captain Crozier, Captain Crozier!”
Crozier turned to wave at the crew after he stepped ashore in Guam.
The removal of Crozier, first reported by Reuters, was announced by acting U.S. Navy Secretary Thomas Modly, who said the captain of the nuclear-powered vessel of 5,000 crew members had exercised poor judgment in the way he “broadly” distributed a letter to superiors.
In his four-page letter, Crozier, who took command in November, described a bleak situation aboard the carrier as more of his crew began falling ill.
He called for “decisive action”: removing more than 4,000 sailors from the ship and isolating them, and wrote that unless the Navy acted immediately it would be failing to properly safeguard “our most trusted asset – our sailors.”
The letter put the Pentagon on the defensive and alarmed the families of those on the vessel, whose home port is in San Diego.
President Donald Trump, when asked about the captain during a White House news conference on Thursday, disputed the notion that Crozier appeared to have been disciplined for trying to save the lives of sailors.
“I don’t agree with that at all. Not at all. Not even a little bit,” Trump said.
Democratic presidential contender Joe Biden said that the Trump administration showed “poor judgment” in relieving a warship commander who was trying to stem a coronavirus outbreak among his crew.
Separately, acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly told Reuters on Friday that Crozier would not be thrown out of the Navy, but rather reassigned as the Navy probed the incident.
(Reporting by David Brunnstrom; Editing by Mary Milliken and Paul Simao)