Democrats call on HHS secretary nominee to address CDC's forbidden words

A group of Democratic senators penned a letter to Alex Azar, President Donald Trump's nominee for HHS secretary, asking him to weigh in on a reported "ban" at CDC of words such as "evidence-based," "diversity" and "science-based" in budget documents, according to The Hill.

In the Dec. 19 letter, signed by members of the Senate Health Committee, the lawmakers said they want Mr. Azar to provide his "reaction to this reported new administration policy, as well as additional information about how you would plan to address these communications restrictions if confirmed" to the HHS post.

The reported ban at CDC was revealed Dec. 15 by The Washington Post. That report stated senior CDC officials informed the agency's policy analysts of the seven forbidden terms last week. They are "diversity," "entitlement," "fetus," "transgender," "vulnerable," "evidence-based" and "science-based."

The senators' letter asks Mr. Azar to respond to a list of questions by Jan. 2. These questions include: "Are you aware of whether the reports of the Trump administration banning key words and phrases from HHS documents are accurate?" and "If the reports are accurate, do you agree with the Trump administration's reported decision?" 

CDC and HHS officials denied there is a ban on the words and said some confusion led to last week's report, according to The Hill.

"I understand that confusion arose from a staff-level discussion at a routine meeting about how to present CDC's budget," CDC Director Brenda Fitzgerald said in a statement to the The Hill. "It was never intended as overall guidance for how we describe and conduct CDC's work."

HHS provided similar remarks to The New York Times, calling the reports a "complete mischaracterization of discussions regarding the budget formulation process."

Alia Paavola contributed to this report. 


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