CDC Reveals Politically Charged ‘Words to Avoid’

January 9, 2018, 9:05 AM HST
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In response to a letter led by U.S. Senator Brian Schatz (D-Hawai‘i) and co-signed by U.S. Sens. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) that called for answers regarding reports of banned words used by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for the upcoming budget process, CDC acknowledged that it provides guidance on words to avoid using and suggests alternative terms.

For instance, in an excerpt from an official document, CDC recommends the use of the colloquial term “Obamacare” over “ACA” or “The Affordable Care Act,” the official name for the law.

Schatz and the co-authors of the letter slammed the use of such guidance, which favors more politically charged language.

“This is Orwellian anti-science partisanship that has no place in a government agency,” said Sen. Schatz. “HHS and the CDC have an obligation to carry out the law and protect public health. They should not be engaging in partisan politics that undermine scientific progress and public faith in our government.”

“The Trump Administration is turning our federal agencies into a flat earth society, encouraging staff to avoid vital words like diversity and vulnerable,” said Sen. Markey. “These so-called alternative terms are as harmful as alternative facts, and we owe it to our health and science professionals to provide them with the best in policy guidance, not political rhetoric.”


“The CDC’s attempt to hide the Trump Administration’s politicization of science behind grammatical correctness is offensive,” said Sen. Blumenthal.  “Let us be clear: there is no reasonable explanation, linguistic or otherwise, for avoiding terms like “diversity” or “vulnerable.” To call these words overused would be laughable if the implications of avoiding their use weren’t so stunning.”


In a response to the Senators’ letter, CDC Director Brenda Fitzgerald provided a style guide which directed staff to “avoid” certain words, including “vulnerable,” “diversity” and “entitlement.”

To view the CDC’s response to the Senators’ letter, click here.

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