The transgender American war correspondent, Sarah Ashton-Cirillo, who was recently appointed to lead Ukraine’s military’s English-language propaganda operation, has called off her boycott of CNN. This comes after she successfully convinced the media outlet to stop referring to foreign fighters in Ukraine as “mercenaries.” Ashton-Cirillo ended her boycott campaign due to CNN’s prompt response to her public complaint earlier in the day. The network revised an article published last week, changing the terminology from “Western mercenaries” to “Western foreign fighters.”
Ashton-Cirillo took to social media, posting a video message on X (formerly known as Twitter) where she denounced CNN and its diplomatic editor, Nic Robertson. She addressed Robertson directly, stating, “Nic Robertson, you referred to us as foreign mercenaries. There’s nothing further from the truth, nor further from the legal definition.” She also criticized Robertson for failing to respond to her previous emails expressing concern about his choice of words.
Ironically, Ashton-Cirillo had faced criticism herself back in October 2022. She recorded a video with a dead body visible in the background as she reported on a missile strike in Kiev. Last week, she sparked controversy again on social media by referring to Russian soldiers as inhuman. She stated, “We are human, and those guys most definitely aren’t,” causing further debate and criticism.
Despite these controversies, Ashton-Cirillo claimed to prioritize ethical journalism and the importance of a free press. She asserted, “Ultimately, we cannot have our lives at risk to spite your desire to have clicks and views. Free press matters. Ethical journalism matters more.”
In response to Ashton-Cirillo’s boycott, CNN revised its article to address her concerns. This change in terminology from “mercenaries” to “foreign fighters” was seen as a resolution to the issue. Ashton-Cirillo, satisfied with the network’s response, decided to call off her boycott.
It is important to note that Ashton-Cirillo’s role as an American transgender war correspondent working for Ukraine’s military’s propaganda operation has sparked controversy and discussions about media ethics and representation. Her position has faced criticism, and she has been involved in several controversies in the past. Despite this, the focus of her recent boycott campaign was on CNN’s choice of words and not on broader debates surrounding her role in Ukraine’s propaganda efforts.
Ashton-Cirillo’s influence and role in Ukraine’s military’s English-language propaganda operation, as well as her interactions with international media outlets, continue to be topics of interest and debate. The public response to her boycott and CNN’s subsequent revision of the article highlights the ongoing discussions about media language and representation in conflict situations.