Mark Esper Admits He Hasn’t ‘Had A Chance’ To Read Desperate Plea From Captain Of Aircraft Carrier Filled With Sick Sailors

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Shelby Talcott Senior White House Correspondent
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Secretary of Defense Mark Esper told CBS’s Norah O’Donnell Tuesday that he hasn’t yet read the four-page plea for help “in detail” from the captain of an aircraft carrier filled with sailors who have the novel coronavirus.

Capt. Brett Crozier sent a four-page letter asking Navy officials to send the ship resources so his men don’t die, according to the letter obtained by The Chronicle. The USS Theodore Roosevelt has been siting in a Guam dock after a novel coronavirus outbreak on board less than one week ago.

“Well, I have not had a chance to read that letter, read it in detail,” Esper admitted after discussing the situation for a few minutes with O’Donnell. “Again, I’m going to rely on the Navy chain of command to go out there to assess the situation and to make sure they provide the captain and the crew all the support they need to get the sailors healthy and get the ship back at sea.”


Crozier said the crew is unable to adhere to social distancing guidelines while on board the ship and wrote that “we are not at war” and so not “a single Sailor” should have to die from the virus. The situation began with just three confirmed novel coronavirus cases on board. Now, there are reportedly 150 to 200, The Chronicle reported.

“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,” Crozier wrote in the letter. (RELATED: Media Rhetoric On ‘Wuhan Virus’ Echoes Chinese Propaganda)

Esper did say that he doesn’t “think we’re at” the point where the ship must be evacuated. He assured O’Donnell that there are a lot of medical supplies and assistance being moved to the docked carrier and that they will be sending more testing kits to get a better idea of how many sailors are infected.

“Well, nobody of course needs to die at this point in time,” Esper said. “We’re not at war. Priority number one is taking care of our service members and their families.”