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Report: CDC given list of banned words, including "fetus" and "diversity"

Last Updated Dec 16, 2017 3:05 PM EST

The Washington Post, citing an analyst, reports the Trump administration is prohibiting officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from using a list of words, including "fetus" and "diversity," in any documents used for prepping next year's budget.

Policy analysts at the CDC's headquarters in Atlanta were told on Thursday about a list of forbidden words in a meeting with senior CDC officials responsible for the budget, according to the analyst, who participated in the 90-minute briefing.  

The Post reports the banned words and phrases include "fetus," "entitlement," "diversity," "transgender," "vulnerable," "evidence-based" and "science-based." Other CDC officials confirmed the existence of a list of banned words to the Post. It is unclear exactly who gave the reported list to the CDC policy analysts. 

The analyst who spoke with the Post could not remember a similar ban over potentially controversial words. The analyst described to the Post the response from people in the meeting as "incredulous."

"It was very much, 'Are you serious? Are you kidding?'" the analyst told the Post. 

CDC officials, according to the analyst, were told to supplement "science-based" or "evidence-based" phrasing with "CDC bases its recommendations on science in consideration with community standards and wishes." But CDC officials, the analyst told the Post, were not always given replacement phrases. 

A spokesman for the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is calling the report of banned words a "complete mischaracterization of discussions," without addressing whether specific words were banned. 

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

The reported ban comes as CDC officials are preparing documents to give to Congress and CDC allies, with the president's budget expected to be released in early February. 

— CBS News' Kathryn Watson contributed to this report.