A human rights initiative in conjunction with artist Robin Bell projected words such as “transgender” and “fetus” onto the outside walls of Washington DC’s Trump International Hotel. This was in protest to what has been referred to as a “hidden list” of banned words that the CDC (Centres for Disease Control and Prevention) was given by the Trump administration.
The news about the banned words was revealed by a Washington Post article that alleged CDC staff had been instructed not to use words like “transgender” or “fetus” in its official budgetary documents.
CDC parent organisation the Department of Health and Human Services has since denied this Washington Post report, labelling it a “complete mischaracterization” of annual budget conversations. The CDC reported that the words were never banned and that it would continue to focus on its mission for public health outcomes as a “science and evidence based institution”.
The Washington Post article alleged that leading officials within the CDC were instructed not to use 7 words in their documents regarding the 2018 budget. These words were entitlement, diversity, fetus, science-based, evidence–based, vulnerable and transgender.
These words, alongside a phrase reading “We will not be erased” were projected by a human rights group onto the walls of the Trump International Hotel which is not far from the White House.
Alongside this symbolic action the group made a request for information under the FOIA (Freedom of Information Act). This information would reveal communications regarding the banning of certain words dating back to November last year.
The projection artist; Robin Bell has gained notoriety for displaying protests on the Trump hotel previously. He also used similar tactics against the headquarters of the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency).
The Washington Post article is based around an anonymous source who claimed to be present for a briefing regarding the CDC’s 2018 annual budget. The source claimed that CDC officials had confirmed there was a list of forbidden words.
Brenda Fitzgerald, director of the CDC, denied claims that any words were “banned”, stating that the CDC has never, and will never prohibit any language from its reporting. She did not however deny that certain staff may have been told to avoid using certain words in upcoming budget documents.
Fitzgerald said she could “understand the confusion” around the staff-level discussions at routine meeting that looked at ways to present the budget reports. She seems to have indicated that the backlash against the CDC was premature and based on misunderstanding.