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CORONAVIRUS

US Acting Navy Secretary resigns after calling ousted captain 'stupid'

Thomas Modly's resignation was one of several changes over recent days

 Acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly has submitted his resignation to US Defense Secretary Mark Esper.  AFP / GETTY IMAGES 
 Acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly has submitted his resignation to US Defense Secretary Mark Esper.  AFP / GETTY IMAGES 

Acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly submitted his resignation on Tuesday after disrespectfully addressing the removed captain of a coronavirus-struck US aircraft carrier, calling him “stupid".

Also on Tuesday, US President Donald Trump President fired the Pentagon’s Acting Inspector General, Glenn Fine, who was responsible for monitoring the $2 trillion (Dh7.34tn) pandemic stimulus package.

Mr Fine's sacking was condemned by Democrats, and comes days after the US President also fired the intelligence community's Inspector General, Michael Atkinson.

Mr Modly handed in his resignation after an audio recording of his tirade against Capt Brett Crozier was leaked on Monday, CNN reported.

In it he calls Mr Crozier “naive” and “stupid” for revealing that the coronavirus had spread on the USS Theodore Roosevelt carrier, which now has hundreds of cases suffering from Covid-19.

Mr Crozier was dismissed by Mr Modly from his job last Thursday, causing an uproar among the sailors on the carrier.

The official issued an apology on Monday night after the audio was leaked.

"I want to apologise to the navy for my recent comments to the crew of the TR,” Mr Modly said.

But that was not enough to calm the storm, and the departing secretary met US Secretary of Defence Mark Esper on Monday before offering his resignation.

Neither the Pentagon nor the White House was available for comment to The National.

The Undersecretary of the Army, James McPherson, will replace Mr Modly, NBC reported on Tuesday.

The resignation was one of several changes in the Trump administration on Tuesday.

White House spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham left her job without having held a press briefing in nine months.

She is returning to her former post helping first lady Melania Trump, and was replaced by a Trump campaign figure, Kayleigh McEnany, the fourth to hold the position in this administration.

The new White House Chief of Staff, Mark Meadows, also moved Alyssa Farah, the current Defence Department spokeswoman, to become the director of strategic communications at the White House.

The changes come as the Trump administration grapples with its coronavirus response.

Cases in the US soared to more than 390,000 on Tuesday, with more than 12,000 dead.

New York state suffered its highest single-day increase in deaths from the coronavirus, with 731.

The numbers seemed to contradict a trend of the past few days, which Governor Andrew Cuomo touted as a possible "flattening of the curve”.

As the total number of deaths reached 5,489 across New York, Mr Cuomo on Tuesday said he was working with governors in New Jersey and Connecticut on a plan to restart life after the crisis subsided.

He said the closures of businesses and schools and other social-distancing measures were having the intended effect.

Mr Cuomo urged continued compliance, especially as New York City braces for a possible peak to hospital admissions this week.

And the US Surgeon General said the pandemic might kill fewer Americans than had been projected.

New York overtook Italy on Tuesday, with the number of coronavirus cases second only to Spain, a Reuters tally showed.

The tally showed New York has 138,836 reported cases compared with Italy at 135,586.

Spain has 140,510. The US has recorded more than 380,000 cases and 12,230 deaths.

Despite the growing pandemic, the state of Wisconsin held its primary vote on Tuesday after the Republican Party won legal battles against the Democratic Governor, Tony Evers, to allow the vote.

The state has more than 2,500 cases of Covid-19 and 90 deaths.

Updated: April 8, 2020 02:28 AM

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