Biography of Elizabeth Vargas, ABC News Journalist

Elizabeth Vargas And David Muir Visit The Empire State Building To Celebrate The 40th Season Of "20 / 20"

Getty Images / Slaven Vlasic

In January 2006, Elizabeth Vargas (born September 6, 1962), a respected 20-year broadcast journalist, began as co-anchor of ABC's "World News Tonight", with correspondent Bob Woodruff, who was injured in Iraq later that month.

Fast Facts: Elizabeth Vargas

Known For: A respected decades-long career as a broadcast journalist, namely as co-anchor of ABC's "World News Tonight" and "20/20".

Born: September 6, 1962, in Paterson, NJ

Spouse: Singer Mark Cohn (m. 1999-2014)

Children:  Zachary Raphael Cohn, Samuel Wyatt Cohn

Education: Overseas schooling for military children. 1980 graduate, Heidelberg American High School in Germany. BA in Journalism, University of Missouri.

Notable Quote: "You do not get into this business if you're interested in a 40-hour workweek, and want to be home for dinner every night. You won't make it in network news. You really need to love it. It's an enormous commitment."

In May 2006, expecting her second child, Vargas resigned from "World News" Tonight and was named co-anchor of ABC's 20/20 newsmagazine. Industry whispers were that she wanted to return to "World News Tonight" after her child's birth, but ABC brass replaced her with news veteran Charles Gibson.

While news veteran Vargas has logged hundreds of hours of international, political and hard-news reporting, her expertise and top interests lie in the social and religious issues that intrigue Americans today. Although conservative Newsbusters ("combating liberal media bias") has accused her of a "liberal bias," she is regarded as a fair reporter who provides in-depth, balanced examinations of the facts.

Elizabeth Vargas' Early Career Years

  • Saturday anchor/reporter at KOMU-TV, an NBC affiliate owned by University of Missouri
  • Reporter at KTVN-TV, the CBS affiliate in Reno, NV
  • Lead reporter, 1986-89, KTVK-TV, the ABC affiliate in Phoenix, AZ
  • Reporter/anchor, 1989-93, WBBM-TV, the CBS affiliate in Chicago, IL

Elizabeth Vargas at NBC and ABC

  • NBC's Today Show, 1993-96, substitute news anchor/co-host
  • Dateline NBC, 1993-96, correspondent
  • ABC's Good Morning America, 1996-97, news anchor
  • ABC's 20/20 news program, 1997-2004, correspondent; co-anchor, 2004
  • ABC's 20/20 Downtown, 1999-2002, host
  • ABC's World News Tonight, 2005 - 2006
  • ABC's 20/20, co-anchor [Won an Emmy in 1999 for coverage of the Elian Gonzalez story.

Vargas Stories and One-Hour Specials at ABC

  • Specials include Surrogacy, Same-Sex Marriage, and a new look at a New Mexico drunk-driving case
  • One controversial 2003 special was based on bestseller "The DaVinci Code". Another was her 2004 Matthew Shepard murder story on 20/20, which reported that the murder may not have been a gay hate crime. Some dubbed her a "lying homophobe" for her reporting.
  • Stories on many issues, including breast cancer research, PETA's war against fur-wearing, and the 1999 Yosemite National Park murders.

The Elizabeth Vargas Persona

On-air and off, Elizabeth Vargas exudes calm, thoughtful authority. She's also a driven perfectionist who dedicates herself to pursuing the story. Vargas doesn't hesitate to ruffle feathers of the viewing public, despite her soothing demeanor and seeming go-along attitude. ABC news brass touted her as creative and "one of the most flexible talents."

Interesting Personal Notes

Elizabeth Vargas led a colorful dating life prior to marriage. She was romantically linked in the 1990s to actor Michael Douglas, who reportedly ended the relationship when he began dating New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd. And per a biography of baseball legend Joe DiMaggio, before his 1999 death, Joltin' Joe developed a crush on Vargas after meeting her aboard a cruise. Vargas was introduced to her Grammy-winning husband Marc Cohn by tennis star Andre Agassi (they divorced in 2014).

Memorable Quotes

"I think there's nothing better in the world than a spirited discussion about the Bible and Jesus and God and the Catholic faith, or the Jewish faith, or the Muslim faith — any religion."
"You do not get into this business if you're interested in a 40-hour workweek, and want to be home for dinner every night. You won't make it in network news. You really need to love it. It's an enormous commitment."
"My husband is Jewish, my baby son has been baptized a Catholic but we're going to expose him to Judaism as well. My family is already a melting pot: I've got devoutly traditional Catholic parents, I was married by a priest and a rabbi. To do that, you have to be flexible in the way you apply your religion in your life. You can't be so dogmatic about 'my way or the highway.' "
Speaking of an ABC program she produced about two other women who disappeared at the same time as Laci Peterson, the attractive, pregnant Caucasian woman who was killed by her husband in 2003, "One of the other women was Black, and the other was Hispanic. The Hispanic woman was not only pregnant, she with her her five-year-old son. But there's no search party going on for them, no media attention, even though they disappeared in the shadow of Laci Peterson. I was really proud of that special...proud that I was able to give these other women their story. "
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White, Deborah. "Biography of Elizabeth Vargas, ABC News Journalist." ThoughtCo, Oct. 11, 2021, White, Deborah. (2021, October 11). Biography of Elizabeth Vargas, ABC News Journalist. Retrieved from White, Deborah. "Biography of Elizabeth Vargas, ABC News Journalist." ThoughtCo. (accessed June 6, 2023).