CDC Word Ban Bunk and Leftist Hypocrisy
Fake news on the Trump administration overshadows the tyranny of political correctness.
In what appears to be another stumble in a seemingly endless number of them, The Washington Post has misreported a story about a list of “forbidden words” engendered by the bureaucrats at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Unsurprisingly the source of the report was a CDC analyst “who spoke on the condition of anonymity.” Even less surprising was the reaction of leftists, many of whom have a highly selective sense of indignation with regard to genuine language bans.
The Post insists the list of banned words were ostensibly relayed to CDC policy and “senior CDC officials who oversee the budget” at a 90 minute briefing Thursday, Dec. 14. The words on that list were “vulnerable,” “entitlement,” “diversity,” “transgender,” “fetus,” “evidence-based” and “science-based,” and the analyst who contacted the paper declared his fellow bureaucrats were “incredulous.”
For an extra dollop of manufactured outrage, Post Science reporter Lena Sun, who wrote the story, tweeted a link to it accompanied by a picture of a baby afflicted with the Zika virus, to emphasize the barbarous nature of an inhumane Trump administration. Yet the last paragraph of Sun’s story gives the game away. CDC official Alison Kelly, who spoke at the briefing told analysts that the actual words flagged in CDC budget drafts being sent back to the agency for correction were “vulnerable,” “entitlement” and “diversity.”
The rest of the list? “Kelly told the group the ban on the other words had been conveyed verbally,” Sun reported.
Columnist Julie Kelly eviscerates Sun’s report. “The most provocative words — fetus and transgender — were not edited in drafts, so no paper trail exists,” she writes. “There is no document, memo, or email to support the allegation that these words were indeed ‘banned.’ The entire article rests on the recollection of one analyst who refused to give her/his name and without a shred of evidence to back up the claim.”
Kelly further notes the article went online approximately 24 hours after the meeting occurred, and that the Post apparently made no effort to verify the unidentified analyst’s claims, contact Allison Kelly, or corroborate the story with other briefing attendees prior to engaging in “a rush to post a clickbait story headed into the weekend.”
Ironically, the Post’s efforts were undermined by a far more accurate story published by another pillar of anti-Trump sentiment more familiarly known as The New York Times. It published an email by CDC spokesman Matt Lloyd. “The assertion that H.H.S. has ‘banned words’ is a complete mischaracterization of discussions regarding the budget formulation process,” it stated. “H.H.S. will continue to use the best scientific evidence available to improve the health of all Americans. H.H.S. also strongly encourages the use of outcome and evidence data in program evaluations and budget decisions.”
The Times further explained they confirmed “some details” of the Post story with “several officials,” but noted they also spoke with those who suggested the proposal “was not so much a ban on words but recommendations to avoid some language to ease the path toward budget approval by Republicans.” The paper also quoted a former CDC official who explained that this is not about “censoring what C.D.C. can say to the American public. It’s about a budget strategy to get funded.”
The paper also highlighted one more inconvenient reality the Post conspicuously omitted: “Even during the Obama administration, C.D.C. officials were required to clear most statements through Health and Human Services.”
Columnist Yuval Levin further explains the supposed language ban amounts to a style guide that “sets out a standard style for everything from capitalization of the titles of key offices to some commonly disputed points of grammar and punctuation.”
He also flips the assertion of censorship on its head, noting it wasn’t “retrograde Republicans” who ordered career CDC officials to avoid certain terms, but rather CDC careerists assuming those retrograde Republicans “would be triggered by such words and, in an effort to avoid having such Republicans cut their budgets, reasoned they might be best avoided.” Furthermore, officials he spoke with insisted the “reported prohibitions were not prohibitions at all and did not come from higher-ups in the department but emerged in the course of an internal conversation at CDC about how to avoid setting off congressional Republicans.”
In other words, it appears part of The Swamp made familiarly tiresome assumptions that “conservative” and “retrograde” are interchangeable terms.
If the leftists like NBC’s Chuck Todd, Nancy Pelosi, or CNN’s Chris Cilliza — who insists the faux ban tells the nation what “Trumpism” is all about — are really concerned about language bans, where were they during the eight years of the Obama administration? That’s when the Robert Mueller-led FBI purged 876 pages and 392 presentations from its counterterrorism training manuals deemed “offensive” by a coalition that included Muslim Brotherhood front groups like the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), despite its Justice Department listing as an unindicted co-conspirator in the 2008 Holy Land Foundation terrorism-funding trial?
Where were they when former Attorney General Loretta Lynch intentionally scrubbed references to Islamic terror Orlando shooter Omar Mateen made to police, the six years the administration referred to the slaughter perpetrated at Fort Hood by Nidal Hassan as “workplace violence,” or when the administration was substituting the terms “justice-involved youth” for “juvenile delinquents” and “overseas contingency operations” for “war?”
Where were they when the AP Stylebook published guidelines used by many writers that included substituting “militants,” “lone wolves,” or “attackers” for “terrorists” or “Islamists,” eliminating the terms “illegal immigrant,” “undocumented” and “migrant?” (“Illegal” and “alien” were eliminated years ago).
Where was their concern when the AP issued a directive whereby writers were instructed to use “anti-abortion instead of pro-life and pro-abortion rights instead of pro-abortion or pro-choice,” or another directive urging writers to characterize those who question global warming as “climate change doubters or those who reject mainstream climate science?”
Where was their concern about a movement “arising, undirected and driven largely by students, to scrub campuses clean of words, ideas, and subjects that might cause discomfort or give offense,” as columnists Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt wondered — more than two years ago? The duo further explained the terms “microagression” and “trigger warnings” were used to justify that censorship.
Then there’s the ubiquitous term “gunman,” which directs the reader’s attention to the tool rather than the perpetrator so as to subtly advance the gun-control narrative.
Before these leftists presume to lecture the rest of us, they might want to address how attached they themselves are to our “PC culture” and the reality that the term “political correctness” is the essence of censorship. They might also reflect on the arsenal of words ending in “phobic” — homophobic, Islamophobic, transphobic, etc. — they use to shut down legitimate debate about anything with which they disagree, when they’re not automatically labeling those who disagree as some permutation of the word “bigot.”
“I want to assure you there are no banned words at CDC. We will continue to talk about all our important public health programs,” tweeted CDC Director Brenda Fitzgerald, who also characterized the Post report as a “complete mischaracterization of discussions regarding the budget formulation process.”
In terms of language, it doesn’t get any clearer than that.