Videos have emerged on social media showing sailors on the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt giving their fired captain a rousing sendoff as he left the ship.
Capt. Brett Crozier was relieved of duty for a “loss of confidence” following the leak of a letter in which he advocated for stronger measures to protect his crew from an outbreak of coronavirus aboard the ship.
The videos show hundreds of sailors gathered in the ship’s hangar clapping and cheering loudly for Crozier as he walked down a ramp towards the pier in Guam where the ship is docked.
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Given that they were posted on social media, the videos were presumably taken by sailors aboard the ship on Thursday evening following word that Crozier had been relieved of command.
Crozier is seen walking alone towards the ramp as hundreds of sailors walked behind him clapping and then cheering for him.
At one point, he stopped at the top of the ramp to salute and wave at clapping sailors, which drew even louder cheers.
In one of the videos capturing that moment, voices can be heard saying “We love you, too!” and “Thank you skipper!”
Later, the ship’s crew is heard rhythmically clapping and chanting, “CAPTAIN! CROZIER!”
Earlier on Thursday, Crozier was relieved of duty by acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas Modly who said he had lost confidence in his leadership abilities following the leak of a letter where Crozier advocated for stronger measures to protect his ship’s crew from further infection by the coronavirus.
Modly said Crozier had expressed valid concerns for the safety of his ship but had exercised “poor judgment” in distributing the letter written to senior commanders to a broad group of people when he could have expressed his concerns to the admiral aboard the carrier.
In the letter Crozier advocated Navy leaders to speed up the removal of the nearly 5,000 sailors aboard the carrier to appropriate accommodations on Guam that met social distancing guidelines set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The day after the letter appeared in the San Francisco Examiner the Navy announced that 2,700 of the ship’s crew were being brought ashore and that suitable housing would be found in hotel rooms on the island.
Modly said the Navy had already put those plans in place at the time that Crozier wrote his letter and that he would have known that had he contacted his chain of command directly.
“It creates a panic, and it creates the perception that the Navy is not on the job, the government’s not on the job, and it’s just not true,” Modly said.
Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Rath Hoffman told reporters Friday that Defense Secretary Mark Esper supported Modly’s decision to fire Crozier.
Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, also expressed his support for Modly’s decision telling Fox News in an interview that Modly “had reason to believe that the captain operated outside the chain of command. I trust Secretary Modly and his judgment and I’m going to support him.”
But Modly’s action has drawn sharp criticism on Capitol Hill where 17 Democratic senators signed a letter to the Pentagon’s inspector general requesting an investigation into the circumstances of Crozier being relieved of duty.
“Given the concerns for the health and safety of the sailors on the USS Theodore Roosevelt, in addition to the potential for future COVID-19 outbreaks on other ships and submarines, we urge you to investigate the Navy’s response to this outbreak to evaluate whether the Navy is implementing all appropriate precautionary measures and best-practices to protect the safety of our fleet,” the senators wrote in a letter to acting Inspector General Glenn Fine.
The statement accompanying the letter also made note of the videos showing the crew’s enthusiastic support for Crozier.
“The Senators expressed particular concern over the Navy’s ‘stark reversal’ regarding Capt. Crozier’s leadership and the decision’s impact on sailors’ morale and readiness, especially ‘given the remarkable show of support for CAPT Crozier by members of his crew,'” it said.
Family members of sailors aboard the ship are concerned that Crozier was fired for speaking candidly about his crew’s welfare.
For Debbie Toth, whose daughter is a sailor aboard the carrier, the captain’s firing is as distressing as the virus.
“I was absolutely blown away and disgusted and disheartened; I’m sad, quite frankly ” she told ABC News. “I watched the video footage of his entire crew clapping and cheering as he was leaving the ship. And I felt the same and I was leveled to tears.”
“I feel like that’s the one person who has shown in the Navy that he cares what happens to my daughter and the 5,000 other sailors that are on that ship,” she added.
Stephanie Hastings, whose husband Christopher is also a sailor on the Roosevelt, told ABC News that in a conversation with her husband he conveyed “that everyone is really upset about the captain.”
“They all loved him,” she said.
“He was telling me they sent off the captain today and everyone was clapping while he was leaving,” Hastings continued. “They were telling the sailors to stop clapping, but they wouldn’t stop.”
The spread of the coronavirus continues among the ship’s crew, with 137 sailors now testing positive for the virus according to Hoffman, the Pentagon spokesman.
Modly said during an appearance on Hugh Hewitt’s radio show Friday that 95 of those that had tested positive were exhibiting symptoms.
“Not one person has been hospitalized, not one person in ICU and not one person on a ventilator,” Modly said.
Modly also told Reuters on Friday that Crozier was being reassigned to another position and that a Navy investigation would determine whether he should face disciplinary action for possible involvement in the leak of the letter to the newspaper.
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ABC News’ Conor Finnegan contributed to this report.