A general view shows the flight deck on board the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt. Photo: Roslan Rahman/AFP via Getty Images

A group of Democratic senators asked the office of the Department of Defense Inspector General on Friday to investigate the U.S. Navy's response to the coronavirus outbreak aboard the U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt and the firing of its captain.

Why it matters: The Pentagon's decision to relieve Capt. Brett Crozier of the nuclear aircraft carrier on Thursday sparked criticism from politicians and others. Later, videos were posted of his crew cheering him on as he was leaving his post.

The big picture: The letter indicated that Crozier's firing led lawmakers, including Sens. Richard Blumenthal and Chris Van Hollen, to question whether the Navy's precautionary measures protect U.S. fleets from the coronavirus.

  • "It is also difficult to understand how CAPT Crozier’s decision to copy '20 or 30 people' on an email to his chain of command necessarily constitutes a breach warranting relief of command," a reversal from what the acting secretary of the Navy previously said, the letter states.

What they're saying:

  • When asked during a White House press briefing if Crozier's firing was punishment for calling attention to the crew’s lack of resources with COVID-19 cases onboard: “I don’t agree with that at all. Not even a little bit.”
  • Former Vice President Joe Biden tweeted Friday: "Captain Crozier was faithful to his duty—both to his sailors and his country. Navy leadership sent a chilling message about speaking truth to power. The poor judgment here belongs to the Trump Admin, not a courageous officer trying to protect his sailors."
  • Rep. Seth Moulton (D-Mass.) tweeted Thursday: "I learned on my first day in the Marines that having the courage to speak truth to power is grounds for respect not grounds for relief. This is far from the first time in the last several years that Congress is going to have a lot of questions for Navy leadership—on leadership."

The Pentagon did not respond to Axios' request for comment.

Read letter:

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