CDC Director Doesn’t Exactly Deny Story On Banned Budgetary Words

FILE - In this Thursday, Oct. 16, 2014 file photo, Brenda Fitzgerald, Georgia Department of Public Health commissioner, left, and Gov. Nathan Deal respond to questions about Ebola victims at Emory University Hospital and efforts to screen for Ebola among travelers passing through Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport during the governor's visit to Georgia Tech, in Atlanta. On Friday, July 7, 2016, Fitzgerald was named to lead the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the federal government's top public health agency. (AP Photo/David Tulis)
David Tulis/FR170493 AP

The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Sunday didn’t exactly deny a new Washington Post report that said agency employees had been banned from using certain words in budget documents, including “vulnerable,” “entitlement,” “diversity,” “transgender,” “fetus,” “evidence-based” and “science-based.” But she did repeat the agency’s previous statement that the story was a “complete mischaracterization.”

“I want to assure you there are no banned words at CDC,” Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald began in a series of tweets Sunday, without directly addressing the Post’s reporting that a senior leader in the CDC’s Office of Financial Services had told analysts in a meeting “that ‘certain words’ in the CDC’s budget drafts were being sent back to the agency for correction.”

“Three words that had been flagged in these drafts were ‘vulnerable,’ ‘entitlement’ and ‘diversity.’ [Alison] Kelly told the group the ban on the other words had been conveyed verbally,” the Post reported Friday.

Stat News reported Sunday that Fitzgerald’s Twitter statement had been previously sent in an all-hands email to CDC staff.

The outlet cited an unnamed Health and Human Services (the CDC’s parent agency) official who said the story had not been reported accurately.

“The meeting did take place, there was guidance provided — suggestions if you will,” the unnamed official told Stat News. “There are different ways to say things without necessarily compromising or changing the true essence of what’s being said.”

They added: “This was all about providing guidance to those who would be writing those budget proposals. And it was very much ‘you may wish to do this or say this’. But there was nothing in the way of ‘forbidden words.’”