Three leading national women’s organizations sent a letter to ABC News President David Westin and ABC Network President Anne Sweeney protesting the apparent demotion of anchor Elizabeth Vargas. On Tuesday, Vargas, then-co-anchor of World News Tonight, read a statement announcing her departure from the show to “focus on anchoring Ô20/20′ and the arrival of [her] new child.” Vargas had been serving as the sole anchor while her co-anchor, Bob Woodruff, recovered from injuries sustained in Iraq. Charles Gibson started last night as the sole anchor of World News Tonight.
The letter, signed by the Feminist Majority Foundation, the National Organization for Women (NOW), and the National Council of Women’s Organizations (NCWO), calls on Westin and Sweeney to consider the message they are sending by removing Vargas from such a prestigious position as she prepares for maternity leave. “É[T]his clear demotion signals a dispiriting return to the days of discrimination against women that we thought were behind us,” says the letter. “With this action and your parallel decision to terminate the series “Commander-In-Chief,” in which Geena Davis portrayed America’s first woman president, you have now managed to eliminate two of the country’s most visible women role models and high achievers from your television lineup.”
In addition, the women’s groups point out that according to news reports, Diane Sawyer was considered for Vargas’ replacement and passed over in favor of Gibson. The letter urges Westin and Sweeney to “Éreverse this appalling trend in general and, in particular to put Elizabeth Vargas or Diane Sawyer in their rightful place on ÔWorld News Tonight’.”