A role model for women in TV news

The Morning Call - - FRONT PAGE - By Har­ri­son Smith

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.

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