Elizabeth Vargas likes to hit the ground running.
The veteran anchor of 20/20 announced in April that she would be stepping down for ABC’s flagship news magazine after 14 years after signing a production deal under the A&E Investigates banner.
“I said goodbye to ABC on Friday, May 26 and my first projects on A&E aired on Monday, May 28,” says Vargas with a laugh, a few hours before she was to receive the A+E Inclusion Award at the Banff World Media Festival. “So it was a very quick transition from one to another . . and very exciting.”
Her early days at A&E have so far included a two-hour special entitled Casey Anthony’s Parents Speak, which found George and Cindy Anthony opening up to Vargas about the disappearance and death of their two-year-old granddaughter Caylee 10 years ago and the sensational trial of their daughter Casey.
The same day, A&E aired the first part of a nine-part series called Cults and Extreme Beliefs with an examination of NXIVM, the headline-grabbing “self-help”organization that has been accused of sexual assault, forced branding and even slavery, leading to the high-profile arrest of founder Keith Raniere and his associate, American actress Allison Mack.
The series is also investigating Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and United Nation of Islam, among other groups.
“I think there’s a certain misconception, or preconceived notion people have about those who might join cults or extreme groups of some kind, that they are gullible and not very bright,” Vargas says. “In fact, we showed by doing these interviews with all these people that many of them are exceptionally bright and very altruistic and well-meaning.”
While this sort of work is certainly timely, they also represent the sort of deep-dive investigative journalism that Vargas says wasn’t always possible on 20/20.
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Source:: Calgary Herald