Jared Golden, left, and Chellie Pingree. Credit: Composite image

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The acting Navy secretary said he would resign Tuesday afternoon after controversy over comments he made criticizing a now-dismissed captain who asked for help in late March as more than one hundred sailors were sickened by the coronavirus. Both of Maine’s U.S. representatives had called for his resignation.

Reps. Jared Golden of Maine’s 2nd District, who serves on the House Armed Services Committee, and Chellie Pingree of the 1st District, joined a handful of other Democratic lawmakers on Tuesday in asking Thomas Modly to resign. The call came amid ongoing concern from Maine’s congressional delegation about the Navy’s handling of Bath Iron Works, the Maine shipyard that is a major Navy contractor.

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Modly fired Capt. Brett E. Crozier after the captain wrote a letter to Navy officials expressing concern about the spread of the coronavirus on his ship, the U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt. The acting secretary then flew to Guam, where the ship is docked, and delivered a profanity-laced tirade to remaining crew members, NPR reported. Modly later apologized for the invective.

Golden, a Marine veteran of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, said in a Tuesday release that Modly’s comments about Crozier “represent a profound lack of judgment.” The 2nd District representative linked Modly’s comments to the Navy’s handling of BIW, saying the two represented the same “dangerous brand of leadership.”

Maine Sens. Susan Collins, a Republican, and Angus King, an independent who caucuses with Democrats, were critical of Modly prior to his resignation on Tuesday. They had stopped short of calling for him to step down, saying there should be an investigation into the incident.

Maine’s congressional delegation has written two letters to Modly over the past few weeks expressing concern about the potential spread of coronavirus at Bath Iron Works, where two workers now have tested positive for the virus.

The shipyard, one of Maine’s biggest employers, has remained open because defense production is considered essential under a state of emergency. However, fewer workers have been clocking in, with transportation being a major issue due to social distancing protocols.