The Trump administration has reportedly banned officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from using these seven words in budget documents — a move that some are calling downright Orwellian:
According to the Washington Post’s Lena Sun and Juliet Eilperin, who broke the story Friday night, CDC policy analysts at headquarters in Atlanta were briefed about the banned words at a Thursday meeting with officials who oversee CDC’s budget.
The meeting was led by Alison Kelly, a senior leader in the agency’s Office of Financial Services, who told attendees that she was just relaying the directive, the Post reported, and that the words were supposed to be scrubbed from documents that are being prepared for the president's budget for 2019 — or else they’d be sent back to the agency for correction.
“In some instances, the analysts were given alternative phrases,” the Post reported. “Instead of ‘science-based’ or ’evidence-based,’ the suggested phrase is ‘CDC bases its recommendations on science in consideration with community standards and wishes,’ the person said. In other cases, no replacement words were immediately offered.”
Many members of the public health community were dumbstruck by the news. Here’s Sandro Galea, an epidemiologist and dean of the Boston University School of Public Health, on Twitter:
Public health scholar and author Laurie Garrett noted that the decision could hinder CDC officials’ ability to communicate to decision-makers about the science they’re doing.
If the @CDC is forbidden from using the word "fetus" how can they describe the impact of #Zika on a baby's brain? If they can't say "transgender" do they say "The HIV risk in men who dress like women" -- which is inaccurate? https://t.co/X4AlKFFLtD— Laurie Garrett (@Laurie_Garrett) December 16, 2017
It could also affect the agency’s work on sexually transmitted diseases among vulnerable populations, such as transgender people, if it can’t use the best language to describe these issues.
The latest news is part of a broader push by the administration to take scientific language in a more ideological direction and, in some cases, embrace the language of the religious right.
The term “evidence-based” appeared 104 & 119 times in @BarackObama's FY16 & FY17 CDC budgets & only 33 times in @realDonaldTrump's FY18, including once on opioid abuse/overdose prevention. In FY19, guess he plans to address opioid epidemic based on feelings vs. actual evidence? pic.twitter.com/ILIQy8p5uO— Chelsea Polis, PhD (@cbpolis) December 16, 2017
The administration has also been removing the phrase “climate change” from some government websites, part of its rejection of the science of global warming.
Perhaps most distressing to the science community was the news that even the words “science” and “evidence” are now being frowned upon.
"Here's a word that's still allowed: ridiculous,” Rush Holt, chief executive officer, American Association for the Advancement of Science, said in a statement.