CDC Employees Prevented from Speaking to Reporters

On August 31, 2017, a public affairs officer at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reportedly sent an email to employees, instructing them not to speak to reporters. The email stated: “Effective immediately and until further notice, any and all correspondence with any member of the news media, regardless of the nature of the inquiry, must be cleared through CDC’s Atlanta Communications Office.” This requirement applies to all communications, “from formal interview requests to the most basic of data requests.” According to CDC employees, all such requests must be referred to headquarters, “even if they could be handled by sending a simple link.”


On August 14, 2018, the Union of Concerned Scientists published the results of a survey of CDC and other government scientists. The results suggest that public communication by CDC scientists has been heavily restricted. 40 percent of CDC scientists surveyed indicated that they “did not believe they are allowed to speak to the public and the news media about their scientific research findings, regardless of the topic’s level of political contentiousness.” 74 percent of scientists surveyed reported having to “obtain agency preapproval before communicating with journalists.” However, nearly 50% of scientists felt that “this does not affect their ability to communicate their science externally.”