President Donald Trump on Saturday lashed the Navy captain who was relieved of duty this week after he pleaded with military authorities in a letter for help for sailors with COVID-19 on his aircraft carrier.
“I thought it was terrible what he did, to write a letter,” an annoyed Trump said at his press briefing, referring to the action by Captain Brett Crozier. “This isn’t a class on literature. This is a captain of a massive ship that’s nuclear-powered. He shouldn’t be talking that way in a letter.”
The president, who also noted that he doesn’t “know much about it,” said that Crozier’s letter “raised alarm bells unnecessarily.”
Crozier, formerly of the USS Theodore Roosevelt, sent the letter seeking help for a coronavirus outbreak on his ship in a nonsecure unclassified email. It leaked to the media. More than 100 of 4,000 sailors on the ship had already tested positive for COVID-19 when Cozier sent the plea Monday.
“The letter was a five-page letter from a captain, and the letter was all over the place,” Trump complained. “That’s not appropriate. I don’t think that’s appropriate.”
It was actually a four-page letter, in which an upset Crozier warned that without immediate action, “we are failing to properly take care of our most trusted asset — our Sailors. The spread of the disease is ongoing and accelerating.” He added: “We are not at war. Sailors do not need to die.”
Cozier’s crew applauded and cheered him, and chanted his name Friday when he left his ship, now docked at the U.S. Naval Base in Guam.
Three sailors tested positive 15 days after the ship made a port stop in Da Nang, Vietnam, in early March, when there were only 100 reported cases in the country. It was the first known outbreak of COVID-19 on a military vessel at sea.
Trump also slammed the stop in Vietnam.
“I guess the captain stopped in Vietnam and people got off in Vietnam,” Trump said. “Perhaps you don’t do that in the middle of a pandemic or something that looked like it was going to be. History would say you don’t necessarily stop and let your sailors get off.”
During that same time in early March Trump himself was dismissing the threat of COVID-19, insisting March 10 that it will “go away,” and blaming the “fake news media” the previous day for inflaming the situation.