In an astonishing order, the Trump administration has banned the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from using seven words — including “fetus,” “transgender,” “diversity” and “science-based” — in any documents used to prepare the agency’s budget, The Washington Post has reported.
CDC policy analysts were reportedly informed of the forbidden words in a 90-minute meeting in Atlanta on Thursday with senior CDC officials. The other banned words are “vulnerable,” “entitlement” and “evidence-based,” according to the Post, citing an unnamed policy analyst. The meeting was led by a senior member of the CDC’s Office of Financial Services. She didn’t know why the words were forbidden and said she was merely relaying information, the Post reported.
Instead of the words “science-based” or “evidence-based,” analysts were told they could use instead: The “CDC bases its recommendations on science in consideration with community standards and wishes,” the newspaper reported.
The Post’s source could not recall a previous time in any other administration when words were forbidden.
Dr. Loren Schechter, director of the Center for Gender Confirmation surgery at Weiss Memorial Hospital in Chicago and a member of the board of the World Professional Association for Transgender Health, said he was shocked by the edict.
“I’m not sure what the ultimate rationale is for doing this aside from trying to erase certain types of people off the map,” he told HuffPost, referring to the ban on the words “transgender” and “diversity.”
“I think walking back hard-earned civil rights is something that is, number one, quite shocking to me and, number two, quite concerning. Simply choosing to ignore reality, science, medicine, will not make these things go away and will not really advance anyone’s cause or lead to improved health outcomes.”
“This is quite an absurdity,” Schechter said. “The president sets the agenda. It’s quite scary ... it really sends a chill down your spine. I can’t imagine how you don’t allow terms to be used. It’s sort of like the thought police here.
“Perhaps we can say the world is flat now,” he said.
Twitter erupted following the news. Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) complained that Trump is “making America stupid again” and wondered if leaders would soon be supporting voodoo and leeches to fight disease. A tweet from Planned Parenthood said the Trump administration has “disdained” women’s health, the LGBTQ community and science from the start.
In a response to the Washington Post’s report, CDC Director Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald tweeted Sunday that there were “no banned words at CDC.” She also quoted the Health and Human Services’ statement about the story, which called the article a “complete mischaracterization” of the budget discussion.
But treating science as a matter of opinion rather than an objective, evidence-based reality appears to have become a hallmark of the Trump administration, particularly when it comes to climate change. So, too, is scrubbing certain words and information from discussions, documents and websites that don’t fit with Donald Trump’s vision. The Department of Health and Human Services has dropped information on its website about LGBTQ individuals.
“Banning valid terminology from government reports is both ignorant and dangerous,” Arthur Caplan, professor of bioethics at New York University’s School of Medicine, told HuffPost in an email. “Not since Lysenko and Stalin has government made hate, malice and duplicity official policy. The Trump administration with its seven-dirty-words policy has now elevated lying to a national standard.
“We cannot replace truth with bias — the nation cannot survive a steady diet of bullshit.”
This story has been updated with a statement from the CDC director.