The Real Reason Elizabeth Vargas Left Good Morning America

Elizabeth Vargas is one of the most well-known TV journalists in the world. For nearly 30 years, the New Jersey native has worked as an investigative reporter for networks like A&E, Fox, and ABC, and she's got the accolades to prove it: an Emmy from 2000, an ALMA Award from 2002, and a Peabody Award from 2013.

Vargas joined ABC News' "Good Morning America" in 1996 and was soon promoted to the show's primetime magazine correspondent. Then, in 2002, she began working as a co-anchor on "20/20 Downtown," per Biography. Over the course of her tenure at ABC News, Vargas worked with journalists like Charlie Gibson, Bob Woodruff, and Diane Sawyer. However, her tenure at the network was not without rumors, and, in 2018, The Hollywood Reporter announced that Vargas would be leaving ABC altogether. Why did the news journalist decide to leave "Good Morning America," and eventually ABC? Was there really something else going on behind the scenes? 

Was Elizabeth Vargas forced out?

In 1996, Elizabeth Vargas joined "Good Morning America" as a news anchor. Two months into her tenure, rumors surfaced that she would be taking over Joan Lunden's position as the show's host, per Tulsa World. However, Vargas told the outlet, "I was hired to do one job, that's it. No guarantees, no promises. If (ABC bosses) have bigger things in store for me, that would be great. But it's not going to happen for a while." In 1997, AP News reported that ABC had chosen Lisa McRee to replace Lunden as a co-host on "Good Morning America," even though Vargas was considered her competition in the pursuit of the job. 

Later reports from New York Metro stated that Vargas was forced to leave her stint at "World News Now" at the request of her colleague, Charles Gibson. The outlet wrote that Gibson not only demanded a pay raise and a longer contract with ABC but threatened that he would not work at "World News Now" with Vargas there. In 2006, New York Magazine wrote of Gibson, "He saw his opportunity and he took it, pushing aside both Sawyer and Elizabeth Vargas, the pregnant incumbent who is going on maternity leave in August and fully expected to return." In 2007, however, Vargas denied these claims, telling Oprah Winfrey that she was never outed by Gibson, per Today. Instead, she stated that she left her position to focus on being a mother — at the time, she was pregnant with her second child. 

Elizabeth Vargas left ABC for good in 2018

In late 2017, news surfaced that Elizabeth Vargas would be leaving ABC News for good in May 2018. In a memo obtained by Page Six, Vargas wrote, "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." 

In April 2018, People (via Yahoo) reported that Vargas was moving on to A+E Networks to "be the face of A&E Investigates." A source told the outlet that Vargas chose not to renew her contract with ABC once it was up, explaining, "She had been there for a really long time and had an opportunity that seemed to be a better fit." Another source shared there was "no bad blood" regarding Vargas' decision to leave. As of March 2021, according to Newsday, Vargas is A&E's lead investigative reporter. She is also the host of "America's Most Wanted" on Fox, which was relaunched earlier this year. 

Elizabeth Vargas reveals 'the hardest part of my entire life'

Despite a hugely successful career and numerous accolades, Elizabeth Vargas suffered in silence throughout her run at ABC. In fact, the brave anchor even opened up about her struggles with anxiety in a 2018 interview with NBC News. "It's the bottling it up and stuffing it down that is most destructive," Vargas told the outlet. "Even those of us who manage to be very highly functioning... we're keeping this terrible dark secret inside of us, and it eats away at you."

Vargas' anxiety stemmed from her childhood after seeing her father go off to fight in the Vietnam War. What would follow in the coming decades were daily panic attacks that culminated in alcohol addiction. "Addiction is a tremendous, terrible disease in this country," Vargas opined. She noted that "far too many families and companies and organizations... treat it as a character flaw or a moral failing or weakness and it's not."

From 2012 to 2014, Vargas battled alcoholism head-on in rehab. Speaking to Yahoo!, she revealed that "I didn't make that decision to make [my struggles] public — somebody else did," revealing that "somebody called up the New York Post and New York Daily News and told reporters where I was." She stated elsewhere, "That period of getting sober for me was the hardest part of my entire life — and I wish I had the opportunity to do that in privacy." 

If you or anyone you know is struggling with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).