In what could be a stunning reversal, leaders of the U.S. Navy are recommending that Capt. Brett Crozier be reinstated to his command after he was relieved from his ship in early April for writing a letter about a coronavirus outbreak onboard, The New York Times reported.
Defense Secretary Mark Esper reportedly received the recommendation Friday. It came from the chief of naval operations, Admiral Michael M. Gilday, and the acting Navy secretary, James McPherson.
The Associated Press also confirmed the news.
Esper’s department previously said that it expected to announce the results from its investigation into Crozier’s ouster later on Friday.
Gilday and McPherson’s recommendation comes after acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas Modly resigned in early April after widespread outrage over his comment calling Crozier “stupid” for pleading with top Navy officials to more swiftly move his sailors off the USS Theodore Roosevelt.
At the time, more than 100 sailors in his 4,000-member crew were sick with COVID-19 and unable to follow social distancing protocols in their tight quarters. Though the outbreak was spreading, only 24% of the crew had been tested for the virus at the time.
“We are not at war. Sailors do not need to die. If we do not act now, we are failing to properly take care of our most trusted asset — our Sailors,” he wrote in late March in a letter leaked to the San Francisco Chronicle. He was relieved of his command of the ship by April 2.
When Crozier departed the ship for the last time, the sailors on board cheered for him and chanted his name.
Days later, Modly excoriated Crozier in front of his former crew. In leaked audio of his speech that ultimately forced his resignation, Modly said, “If he didn’t think … that this information wasn’t going to get out into the public, in this information age that we live in, then he was too naive or too stupid to be commanding officer of a ship like this.”
Clarification: Language previously stating that Crozier was “fired” has been amended to say he was relieved of his command of the ship. He remained in the Navy.