A role model for women in TV news
Emmy-winning journalist and political commentator, Cokie Roberts, 75, died Tuesday of complications from breast cancer.
WASHINGTON — Cokie Roberts, a daughter of politicians who went on to become a prominent journalist and political commentator, winning three Emmy Awards during a long career, died Tuesday in Washington of complications from breast cancer. She was 75.
ABC News broke into network programming to announce her death and pay tribute.
Roberts was inducted into the Broadcasting and Cable Hall of Fame and named a “living legend” by the Library of Congress in 2008. A rare woman in the newsroom when she began her career in the mid-1960s, she worked at CBS News, NPR and PBS before joining ABC News in 1988.
A veteran congressional reporter and consummate Washington insider, she co-anchored the Sunday political show “This Week” with Sam Donaldson from 1996 to 2002, when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She also wrote eight books and penned a political column.
Former President Barack Obama said Roberts was a role model for women at a time the journalism profession was still dominated by men, and was a constant over 40 years of a shifting media landscape and changing world.
“She will be missed, and we send our condolences to her family,” Obama said.
Former President George W. Bush and his wife, Laura, called Roberts a talented, tough and fair reporter.
“We respected her drive and appreciated her humor,” the former president said. “She became a friend.”
In part, her Washington expertise was a result of her upbringing — her father, known as Hale Boggs, was Democratic majority leader in the U.S. House, and her mother, Lindy Boggs, launched her own congressional career after he died in a 1972 plane crash.
Roberts’ older brother, Thomas Boggs Jr., was a lobbyist and master dealmaker; her sister, Barbara Boggs Sigmund, served as mayor of Princeton, New Jersey.
“I’m the only person in my original nuclear family who didn’t run for Congress,” Roberts told The Washington Post earlier this year. “I have always felt semi-guilty about it,” she added. “But I’ve sort of assuaged my guilt by writing about it and feeling like I’m educating people about the government and how to be good voters and good citizens.”
She was born Mary Martha Corinne Morrison Claiborne Boggs on Dec. 27, 1943, and said her brother Tommy nicknamed her Cokie because he couldn’t pronounce Corinne.
Her father, Thomas Hale Boggs Sr., was elected from Louisiana to the House in 1940. He lost a reelection bid but returned to office in 1947, leading Cokie to spend much of her childhood in Washington. Her mother, the former Lindy Claiborne, won the special election for his seat after his plane disappeared in Alaska, served nine terms in Congress; President Bill Clinton later appointed her U.S. ambassador to the Holy See at the Vatican.
Roberts received a bachelor’s degree from Wellesley College in political science in 1964. Her early journalism jobs included hosting a public affairs program at Washington television station WRC-TV, and reporting overseas for CBS News on the radio.
She covered Capitol Hill for the fledgling radio broadcaster NPR beginning in the late 1970s, then served as congressional correspondent for more than a decade while contributing to “The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour” on PBS. Until her death, she served as a part-time political commentator for NPR.
Before joining “This Week” at ABC, Roberts was a political correspondent for the network’s “World News Tonight” program and filled in for Ted Koppel on “Nightline.”
Roberts married journalist Steven Roberts in 1966. In addition to her husband, of Bethesda, Maryland, survivors include two children and six grandchildren.
Cokie Roberts died of complications from breast cancer.