CDC Denies Word Ban as Uproar Ensues

HHS statement calls the story 'complete miscalculation'
By Gina Carey,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 17, 2017 5:16 PM CST
Health leaders say they are alarmed that officials at the CDC, the nation's top public health agency, are being told not to use certain words or phrases in official budget documents, including "fetus,"...   (AP Photo/David Goldman, File)

(Newser) – "Here's a word that's still allowed: 'ridiculous.'" Chief executive officer of the American Association for the Advancement of Science Rush Holt wasn't alone in his reaction to the Washington Post report that the CDC has banned seven words from its budget documents, the AP reports. As the CDC pushes back against the Post's story, experts have a lot to say on the matter.

  • 1984?: “It’s absurd and Orwellian, it’s stupid and Orwellian," a former federal official told the NY Times. "But they are not saying to not use the words in reports or articles or scientific publications or anything else the CDC does."
  • Alongside a photo of Orwell’s classic dystopian novel, Senator Jeff Merkley‏ concurred with that sentiment on Twitter: “Banned words in Trump’s America apparently include “evidence-based,” “transgender,” and “vulnerable.” Are you kidding me?!?!”
  • Republican strategist and political commentator Ana Navarro used all seven words in a tweet criticizing the news in a nod to late comic George Carlin’s seven dirty words joke.

  • Michael Halpern, deputy director of the Center for Science and Democracy, told the Times that the CDC must assure Americans it can operate outside partisan politics: “The fact that the agency began controlling what scientists can say to reporters a few months ago doesn’t suggest they want to be open and honest with the public.”
  • Per the AP, Dean of BU’s School of Public Health Dr. Sandro Galea asserts that not using these words deprioritizes certain issues: “If you are saying you cannot use words like 'transgender' and 'diversity,' it's a clear statement that you cannot pay attention to these issues."
  • HHS called the Post's story "a complete mischaracterization" in a statement, reports ABC News. "HHS will continue to use the best scientific evidence available to improve the health of all Americans," it read.
  • CDC Director Dr Brenda Fitzgerald took to Twitter to double down on the message: "I want to assure you there are no banned words at CDC. We will continue to talk about all our important public health programs."
(Read more Washington Post stories.)

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