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Elizabeth Vargas leaving ABC News after 2 decades, network announces

Elizabeth Vargas attends the ABC Network Upfront Presentation

Elizabeth Vargas attends the ABC Network Upfront Presentation on May 17, 2016, in Manhattan. Credit: Invision/AP / Evan Agostini

Elizabeth Vargas — co-anchor of “20/20” and one of ABC News’ highest-profile figures over a two-decade run there — will leave the network in May, ABC announced Friday.

Her departure, announced internally, marks the end of a 14-year run at the news magazine. Vargas, 55, was also briefly co-anchor of “World News Tonight” when her on-air partner, Bob Woodruff, was grievously wounded while covering the war in Iraq.

In a memo addressed to the ABC News staff, James Goldston, the president of the news division, wrote that Vargas “has decided to leave ABC News at the end of the newsmagazine’s 40th season in May to pursue new ventures.”

He added that Vargas “holds an historic place at ABC. She is only the second woman ever to serve as co-anchor of 20/20,” calling the role “daunting” because she had followed Barbara Walters. It would make the second instance in which Vargas held a historic role at ABC, and in which she also followed Walters — as only the second woman to anchor ABC’s early evening weeknight newscast. Vargas and Woodruff were named co-anchors in December 2005, but a month later, on Jan. 29, Woodruff was nearly killed after a roadside bomb struck his convoy near Taji, Iraq. She was replaced later that spring by Charles Gibson, who did not want a co-anchor. Diane Sawyer became solo anchor in 2009.

Vargas wrote of the difficult professional and personal toll the near-death of her friend and colleague took on her in a 2016 memoir, “Between Breaths.” But the book was an especially harrowing account of Vargas’ battle with alcoholism, writing that she had once blacked out and had no recollection of what had happened to her for nearly a day afterward. In an interview promoting the book with People, she said, “Rehab isn’t what finally got me sober. It was nearly losing everything and finally seeing that whatever benefit I thought alcohol gave me was outweighed by what it would cost me.”

Vargas joined “Good Morning America” in 1996 after a long run at NBC News, and was named co-anchor of “20/20” in 2004. One of the network’s most versatile anchors, she has covered countless breaking stories.

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