A day after President Donald Trump dismissed concerns over the firing of the aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt’s commanding officer, the Democratic frontrunner to challenge Trump in this fall’s presidential election blasted the move as “poor judgement” by military leaders.
Former Vice President Joe Biden praised the fired officer — Capt. Brett Crozier — as “faithful to his duty” and said the decision by Navy officials sends the wrong message to other military commanders.
On Thursday, Crozier was dismissed from his command in the wake of a leaked letter he wrote pleading for help to stifle a coronavirus outbreak on the 4,800-person aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt.
“Captain Crozier! Captain Crozier!” the sailors chanted amid claps and cheers as their skipper walked along the gangway, leaving his ship of nealy 5,000 sailors.
Crozier had proposed that the ship be mostly evacuated and the majority of his sailors moved into isolated quarantine in Guam. More than 100 sailors on the ship have tested positive for COVID-19 so far.
Acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly told reporters on Thursday that Crozier’s letter “misrepresented the facts of what was going on” and went outside the normal chain of command to express his concerns.
During a press conference the same day, Trump dismissed assertions that the move could be seen as punishing a senior official for putting his sailors’ lives ahead of military bureaucracy.
“I don't agree with that at all,” he said. “Not at all. Not even a little bit.”
Biden — along with numerous Democrats on Capitol Hill — saw it differently.
“Navy leadership sent a chilling message about speaking truth to power,” he tweeted Friday. “The poor judgment here belongs to the Trump administration, not a courageous officer trying to protect his sailors.”
"He did not take care, and what that did is it created panic on the ship."
In a statement Thursday evening, the Democratic leaders of the House Armed Services Committee called the decision “a destabilizing move that will likely put our service members at greater risk and jeopardize our fleet’s readiness.”
A group of 17 Democratic senators has called for the Defense Department Inspector General to conduct a formal investigation into the firing.
Biden has suspended most campaigning since the start of the coronavirus outbreak in America last month, but has said in recent days he will speak with Trump about the federal response to the pandemic.