Dec 17, 2017, 2:10 AM ET

HHS disputes report that it has barred CDC from using words like 'diversity' and 'fetus'


Trump administration officials in the Department of Health and Human Services said a report that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the leading U.S. public health agency, is being barred from using certain words, including "diversity," "transgender" and "fetus," is a "complete mischaracterization."

The Washington Post reported that policy analysts at the CDC were told in a meeting Thursday to not use certain words in any official documents for preparing for the budget for fiscal year 2019.

The words are: "evidence-based," "science-based," "entitlement," "vulnerable," "diversity," "transgender" and "fetus," the Post reported.

In response to ABC News' request for comment from the CDC, an HHS spokesperson responded in a statement.

"The assertion that HHS has 'banned words' is a complete mischaracterization of discussions regarding the budget formulation process," the HHS statement said. "HHS will continue to use the best scientific evidence available to improve the health of all Americans. HHS also strongly encourages the use of outcome and evidence data in program evaluations and budget decisions."

ABC News asked HHS for further clarification but has not yet received a response.

The Post reported that, according to a source, policy analysts were given some phrases to use instead of the prohibited words, such as instead of saying "science-based" or "evidence-based" using the phrase, "CDC bases its recommendations on science in consideration with community standards and wishes."

Some of the CDC's work deals explicitly with issues described by the reportedly banned words. The health agency's web page with information on the Zika virus for pregnant women notes, for example, that "Zika virus can be passed from a pregnant woman to her fetus."

And the CDC's National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention refers on its website to the importance of its mission of "addressing the health needs of people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender."

The Post's report elicited a strong reaction from critics, despite the HHS refuting the report.

The National LGBTQ Task Force's executive director, Rea Carey, slammed the alleged banning of the word "transgender," saying, "It is disgraceful for a government to attempt to wipe away transgender people, women, and science. President Trump should be ashamed of himself."

Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., tweeted the cover of George Orwell's dystopian novel "1984" along with a link to the Post's story, writing, "Banned words in Trump's America apparently include "evidence-based," "transgender," and "vulnerable." Are you kidding me?!?!"

News - HHS disputes report that it has barred CDC from using words like 'diversity' and 'fetus'

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  • Actornaught

    "I assure you there are no banned words."
    The issue would seem to be the specific use of the word 'banned'. Compared to what would be more phony conservative P.C., these terms are to be 'avoided'. When your boss says to 'avoid' those words, you damwell don't use them, banned or not.
    But with the republick tea party mental defects in Congress, the smarter folks at the CDC have to do this dance....

  • DRL

    This nothing more than recommendation on how to best wordsmith a budget request to mitigate resistance and have it passed through Congress with minimal questioning.

  • Eastern_girl

    The media is being played by activists because they are so anxious for things like this to be true.

  • Brett_Bellmore

    So, HHS says, "didn't happen", and then you resume covering it as though it did?

  • gs12

    The best and brightest do not work in the public sector.

  • Bill G

    I was just thinking about the book/movie 1984 and then saw the picture of the tweet. Scary. It's been about 20 years since I saw the movie. I think I'll pick up the book again to see how times have changed to mimic the book.

  • Wesley

    These are words that have meaning(s) or use in the political arena that might not match their scientific meaning, so they would be best not used if trying to persuade people who are in political office. As well, "evidence-based" seems a little redundant, and I don't know why a study would use it.

  • Thomas

    The proof will be in the wording in the budget documents.

    If those words are used, the story is false
    If those words are not used, the story may be true.

  • Sir Real

    Black-hearted Republicans fuss over fetuses because they do not cost anything. Children can need health care, and, despite their plan to add about $1trillion to the national debt, Republicans say they cannot find money for CHIP.

  • runton

    I've been in meetings like that. It's probably not some official ban but more of a strongly suggested political maneuver to get their budgets approved without hassle by this administration.

    Either way, it doesn't reflect well on the mindset of this presidency.

  • Kristen Browde

    Who are you going to believe? The persons who heard the ban uttered by their boss at CDC or the flack who points to web pages that haven't been purged of forbidden words yet, while not directly responding to the allegations?

    Contrary to the imprecisely written story you posted "a complete mischaracterization of discussions regarding the budget formulation process" is NOT a denial that the CDC employees were told not to use the words. The statement does not deny it - it merely speaks of something different.

    You guys should know to cut through the attempt to redirect the conversation.

    And, whatever. We will NOT be erased.

    This administration? An entirely different story.

  • gryphon50

    God forbid we have anything science-based.

  • Heavy Rain is Coming

    If you rely on alternative facts or get your news from fox, then you can ban words and phrases that are above your level of comprehension. While they are at it burn the books too.

  • Donnie2Scoops2

    What's wrong with "fetus"?

  • Donnie2Scoops

    What's next? lol

  • Donnie2Scoops

    Why "fetus"?

  • clink

    Welcome to Trump's America!

  • Indie6050

    Good grief...what is next, pure censorship, just because some political party does not like it, no matter who they (and we are talking 1st amendement here)...what is next after that, "book burning",,, a dictatorship ?

  • Ira Cohen

    Newspeak. Orwell wasn't wrong after all. But it's not too late as it was for Winston and Julia. We can vote in 2018 to cauterize the madness and Trump. Next goal: stop Trump's next supreme court nomination which will can doom us for a generation.,

  • boyscout

    At some point when they continue to be exclusionary and ridiculous they will also become irrelevant.

  • GayEGO

    The CDC should reject Trump's order just like the military, judges, and the Pentagon rejected Trump's order to ban transgenders from serving in the military.

  • Primo Veritas

    Control of language? Another step toward dictatorship.

  • 2martins

    So if it was mischaracterized, then explain it.

  • John N Florida

    The same cabal of sTRUMPettes refuses to believe the Russians tried to skew the election.

    I don't REALLY have any faith in any thing they say.These purveyors of
    FAKE NEWS would never admit to their Fascist Restraints on the agencies
    they rule.

  • xThatxSamexDudex

    Okay, fine.. We don't use "science-based" .. What about "research-based" or "empirically sourced"?

  • george

    The GOP would rather accept fascism than admit they made a serious mistake.

  • Rafterman00

    “complete mischaracterization.”

    A wishy washy phrase that means the report is accurate.

  • Kt

    true or not , it's a double - edged sword . If grants for specific projects are banned , the grant can still be applied for by using an alternate term on the application. If this article is true , the biggest loophole for "re-directing " funding to banned projects was just created. Now , scientists , doctors and politicians can work together to funnel money to pet projects. That will be a big trade-off asset in negotiations and incentives.

  • Prophet With Honor

    A rose by any other name...

  • Murfski

    HHS has pushed back against what what the Washington Post reported. The simple, logical thing to do is to make public the entire text of the directive in question. Then, if reading a government memo doesn't put us all to sleep, we can make up our own minds. If the quote about "community standards and wishes.” is accurate, I'd guess it won't be a hard decision.