In his letter accepting Modly's resignation, Esper said the ongoing official had "resigned of his according, putting the navy and the sailors above self so that the USS Theodore Roosevelt, and the navy as an institution, can move forward".
Axios reports: "His apology came after President Trump told a news briefing earlier Monday he would "get involved" following a leak of Modly's remarks". No sailors have been hospitalized, it said. "He made a mistake but he had a bad day", Trump said.
After Modly's remarks were widely reported, several Democratic lawmakers called for his resignation or firing, and Trump suggested he might intervene in the case.
"You have two good people and they're arguing".
Shortly after that Modly reversed course and issued an apology, admitting that Crozier was neither naive nor stupid.
"The whole thing was ... very unfortunate", Trump said at the White House.
"We are not at war".
One anonymous US official said military officials had recommended against firing Crozier, arguing that it was better to finish an investigation.
"Anyone who has serve on a Navy ship would understand".
Asked Monday afternoon whether Esper still had full confidence in Modly, Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman declined to discuss the matter. The Navy's last secretary was sacked in November over his handling of the case of a Navy SEAL convicted of battlefield misconduct.
Modly's tenure as acting secretary ends as it began - mired in controversy.
United States political website Politico reported on Tuesday that a sailor assigned to the USS Nimitz tested positive for the virus.
"Acting Secretary Modly's decision to address the sailors on the Roosevelt and personally attack Captain Crozier shows a tone-deaf approach more focused on personal ego than one of the calm, steady leadership we so desperately need in this crisis", Smith said in a statement.
At least 173 sailors aboard the ship have tested positive for coronavirus, and about 2,000 of the 4,865 crew members have since been taken off the ship to be tested.
"I'm not looking to destroy a person's life who has had an otherwise stellar career", he said, in reference to Crozier.
"I could reach no other conclusion than that Capt. Crozier had allowed the complexity of his challenge with the covid outbreak on his ship to overwhelm his ability to act professionally, when acting professionally was what was needed most at the time", said Modly last week. "You all know this, but in my view your Captain lost sight of this and he compromised critical information about your status intentionally to draw greater attention to your situation".
Modly had been the acting Navy secretary since November when former Navy Secretary Richard Spencer was sacked by Esper for loss of confidence due to his handling of the case of Navy SEAL Chief Petty Officer Edward Gallagher, who was accused of committing war crimes.