Cokie Roberts, a pioneering journalist who was perhaps best known for her savvy insight and analysis of politics, government and Washington D.C., has died at the age of 75, ABC News has announced. Her death was due to complications from breast cancer.
“We will miss Cokie beyond measure, both for her contributions and for her love and kindness,” her family said in a statement.
“Cokie Roberts will be dearly missed,” said James Goldston, president of ABC News. “Cokie’s kindness, generosity, sharp intellect and thoughtful take on the big issues of the day made ABC a better place and all of us better journalists.”
Roberts won many awards, including three Emmys, throughout her decades-long career, according to ABC News, which adds she has been inducted into the Broadcasting and Cable Hall of Fame and was cited by the American Women in Radio and Television as one of the 50 greatest women in the history of broadcasting. She was named a “Living Legend” by the Library of Congress in 2008.
She was perhaps best known as a commentator for ABC News, starting as a contributor for This Week with David Brinkley, and as the network’s chief congressional analyst and anchor on This Week with Sam Donaldson and Cokie Roberts.
“Being an anchor is a completely different role. You are in charge of the program,” Roberts recalled in an interview with the TV Academy’s Archive of American Television. “The other thing that is true about being an anchor is your bosses expect you to book a program and come up with good guests, and to be all over it, and that part I didn’t like at all.”
She continued to appear on the show after George Stephanopoulos and Martha Raddatz took over hosting duties.
Roberts started in radio as a foreign correspondent for CBS in Athens, Greece, and then moved to NPR to cover Capitol Hill in 1978. She split her time between NPR and ABC and, according to the network, she was “perhaps the only reporter to have filed for Morning Edition, All Things Considered, World News Tonight and Nightline in a single day.”
She is survived by her husband, fellow journalist Steven Roberts, her children, Lee and Rebecca and her six grandchildren.
Last month, after an appearance on “This Week” caused concern over her health, she sent a note to Axios in which she said that she was “doing fine. I very much appreciate the kind comments I have received and expect to be, as I have been, working away in the days and months to come, covering what promises to be a fascinating election.”
Roberts was a role model for many women journalists who started after her, and she was an influential voice in conveying what D.C.’s insiders and lawmakers were thinking, also known as conventional wisdom.
She was born Martha Corinne Morrison Claiborne Boggs (the nickname “Cokie” came from her brother Tommy) in New Orleans, but grew up surrounded by politics. Her father, Hale Boggs, was a longtime Democratic congressman from Louisiana who served as House majority leader. When the plane was riding in disappeared in Alaska in 1972, his wife and Roberts’ mother, Lindy Boggs, succeeded him. Lindy Boggs later served as U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See during the Clinton administration.
“I knew Congress in a way that nobody knew Congress,” Roberts recalled in the TV Academy interview. “It was very.very helpful.”
In the interview, she recalled that after serving as a foreign correspondent, she initially did not want to come back to the U.S. from Greece, but her husband’s job moved.
“My hesitation was that I didn’t want to be pulled back into a life I had already lived,” she said. When she returned, she eventually covered Congress on Capitol Hill for NPR’s All Things Considered, and she found her surroundings familiar, going back to her childhood. One of the men who worked on the Ways and Means Committee looked at her and said, “Baby, you’re back.’ And then he said, ‘Miss baby! Now that I was 30. So it was a great advantage.”
She realized that, given her background, it made sense to cover Congress and the wider political world. Jonathan Karl, ABC News’ chief White House correspondent, wrote on Twitter on Tuesday that Roberts attended 22 political conventions. “That may be a record,” he wrote. He shared an interview he did with her at her last, the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, where Hillary Clinton became the first woman nominee for president on a major party ticket.
Roberts continued to provide commentary for NPR’s “Morning Edition” and ABC News until just a few weeks ago.
Nancy Barnes, NPR’s news chief, wrote in a memo to staff that the newsroom would honor Roberts with a moment of silence in the newsroom at 3 p.m. on Tuesday.
“Not long after I arrived at NPR, Cokie, Nina Totenberg and Linda Wertheimer took me to lunch to welcome me, and shared stories from their early careers, trying to break into journalism when opportunities for women were few and the pay was low,” Barnes wrote. “I was reminded then, as I am today, of how much we all owe to Cokie and other pioneering women journalists.”
ABC News ran a tribute to Roberts here.
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