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CDC reportedly given list of seven banned words and phrases

Among the words that CDC policy analysts were reportedly told not to use were 'entitlement,' 'diversity,' 'transgender' and 'fetus.'
Image: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
A sign marks the entrance to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta on Oct. 8, 2013.David Goldman / AP file

The Trump administration reportedly banned staff of the nation's top health protection agency from using seven words or phrases in budget-related documents. But federal health officials on Saturday pushed back on the report as members of the science community publicly denounced the idea of such a directive.

Policy analysts with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention were told during a meeting Thursday that they couldn't use the words "vulnerable," "entitlement," "diversity," "transgender," "fetus," "evidence-based" and "science-based," The Washington Post reported Friday.

The meeting was led by Alison Kelly, a senior leader in the agency's Office of Financial Services, The Post reported. She gave no reason for the ban, according to an anonymous analyst who spoke with the newspaper.

During the meeting, Kelly reportedly noted that three of the words — "vulnerable," "entitlement" and "diversity" — were flagged in the agency's budget drafts. The other words were mentioned verbally, the analyst said.

In a statement provided to NBC News, a spokesman with the Department of Health and Human Services, which oversees the CDC, said the assertion that there are "'banned words' had mischaracterized actual discussions."

"HHS will continue to use the best scientific evidence available to improve the health of all Americans," said spokesman Matt Lloyd. "HHS also strongly encourages the use of outcome and evidence data in program evaluations and budget decisions."

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Lloyd didn't say specifically how The Post's report may have mischaracterized the meeting.

The budget materials that include the specific words and phrases The Post cited are given to partners of the CDC. Those materials, including supporting documents, are also provided to Congress.

The Office of Management and Budget, which will receive proposals from federal agencies for the president's 2019 budget and has a final say on what is included, did not immediately respond to NBC News' request for comment.

The FDA, which is among the agencies and offices under the Health and Human Services umbrella, said Saturday that it had not received the same guidance as the CDC.

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"We haven't received, nor implemented, any directives with respect to the language used at FDA to describe our policy or budget issues," an FDA spokeswoman told NBC News in an email.

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Rush Holt, CEO of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the world's largest general scientific society, blasted the notion of banning certain words — particularly ones rooted in science.

"Among the words forbidden to be used in CDC budget documents are 'evidence-based' and 'science-based.' I suppose one must not think those things either," Holt said. "Here's a word that's still allowed: ridiculous."