(PBS)U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald on Sunday addressed a report that President Donald Trump’s administration had banned the CDC from using seven words or phrases in next year’s budget documents.
The terms are “fetus,” “transgender,” “vulnerable,” “entitlement,” “diversity,” “evidence-based” and “science-based,” according to a story first reported on Friday in The Washington Post.
But Fitzgerald said in a series of tweets on Sunday said there are “no banned words,” while emphasizing the agency’s commitment to data-driven science.
I want to assure you there are no banned words at CDC. We will continue to talk about all our important public health programs.
— Dr Brenda Fitzgerald (@CDCDirector) December 17, 2017
“CDC has a long-standing history of making public health and budget decisions that are based on the best available science and data and for the benefit of all people—and we will continue to do so,” she said.
A group of the agency’s policy analysts said senior officials at the CDC informed them about the banned words on Thursday, according to the Post’s report. In some cases, the analysts were reportedly given replacement phrases to use instead.
But in follow-up reporting, The New York Times cited “a few” CDC officials who suggested the move was not meant as anoutright ban, but rather, a technique to help secure Republican approval of the 2019 budget by eliminating certain words and phrases.
A spokesperson for the Department of Health and Human Services, which oversees the CDC, said the reported decree on banned words was a misrepresentation.
“The assertion that H.H.S. has ‘banned words’ is a complete mischaracterization of discussions regarding the budget formulation process,” Matt Lloyd, an agency spokesman, said in a statement. “H.H.S. will continue to use the best scientific evidence available to improve the health of all Americans. H.H.S. also strongly encourages the use of outcome and evidence data in program evaluations and budget decisions.”
But some in the scientific community said that forbidding certain words could help change the direction of policies at the CDC, the nation’s top public health agency.
“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,” said Dr. Sandro Galea, dean of Boston University’s School of Public Health, to the Associated Press.