The news broke today and ABC News president James Goldston and Vargas told staff in memos (read them in full below), with Goldston saying she was going to “pursue new ventures.” There was no mention of a 20/20 anchor replacement.
Vargas has worn many hats at ABC’s news division, and famously was named co-anchor of the networks’ World News Tonight with Bob Woodruff. That job was announced in late 2005, about a month before Woodruff was severely injured by an IED while covering the war in Iraq. Eventually, Vargas stepped down from WNT and Charles Gibson became sole anchor.
She became only the second female 20/20 anchor when she replaced Barbara Walters in the fall of 2004. In 2014, she spoke about her alcohol addiction, and two years later wrote a book about it, Between Breaths: A Memoir of Panic and Addiction.
Vargas came to ABC from NBC, where she was a correspondent and anchor for Dateline NBC and Today among other assignments.
Here’s Goldston’s memo today, followed by Vargas’:
I am writing to share some news about Elizabeth Vargas, who’s been an integral part of ABC News for two decades and anchor at 20/20 for 14 years.
She has decided to leave ABC News at the end of the newsmagazine’s 40th season in May to pursue new ventures.
One of the best broadcasters in our business, Elizabeth holds an historic place at ABC. She is only the second woman ever to serve as co-anchor of 20/20. She moved into that role – a daunting assignment to follow in the footsteps of our legendary Barbara Walters – with true determination to tell the stories from around the globe that explore important issues in depth and tap into significant moments in our culture.
She brought awareness to the crisis in Iraq covering Christian refugees escaping ISIS, reported on orphans in Cambodia who were given up for adoption without their parents’ knowledge, on gendercide in India, and was at the forefront of the Amanda Knox case from its earliest days.
Most recently Elizabeth spent three years documenting an inspirational family adjusting to life with a son’s rare facial condition. Her beautiful hour, “Wonder Boy,” delivered 20/20’s highest ratings this season.
We’ve counted on her countless times for breaking news. Just in the last few years, she’s anchored live specials on the 2017 inauguration and Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, reports on the passing of George Michael, Carrie Fisher, Debbie Reynolds, Prince and Muhammad Ali, as well as, network coverage of the deadly Orlando nightclub massacre, the ambush on police officers in Dallas and the Paris terrorist attacks in 2015. She has been in the anchor chair for ABC for some of the biggest breaking news events in the past two decades, including the attacks on 9/11 and the death of President Ronald Reagan.
From co-anchor of World News Tonight to news anchor for GMA, Elizabeth has served in many key roles here and won nearly every award in broadcasting along the way.
But we were most proud of her courage and grace in telling her own story about her struggle with anxiety and alcoholism. Her best-selling memoir has helped so many people by raising awareness about the importance of finding treatment for millions who are still struggling. She continues to be an inspiration for us all.
As we get closer to Elizabeth’s final date on the air, we will celebrate her many outstanding accomplishments with a proper send-off. In the meantime, she and her team are hard at work on several specials and investigations for the new year.
We are incredibly lucky to have had Elizabeth at ABC for so long, and we wish her the best on the next chapter in her professional life.
Please join me in thanking Elizabeth for all that she has contributed to ABC News.
Here’s Vargas’ note to 20/20 staffers:
To my 20/20 family,
I want you to hear some news about me, from me. I will be leaving ABC News, and 20/20 at the end of this historic 40th season. It has been a profound privilege to be the anchor of 20/20 for 14 years, and a true honor to work with each and every one of you. I am incredibly lucky to work alongside the very best in the business: the producers, editors, writers on this show, and the enormous team working every week to get our show on the air. I am so very proud of the stories we have told together.
I am sorry only to have to share this news with you as we celebrate the holidays. I had hoped to make this announcement after the first of the year.
This is not goodbye – I will be here through May, and cannot wait to do more work with all you in the months ahead.
Have a happy holiday with your families, and I will see you next year.