Cokie Roberts, longtime political journalist, dies at 75

National
Undated photo of Cokie Roberts interviewing President Gerald Ford. (Courtesy Gerald R. Ford Presidential Foundation)

Undated photo of Cokie Roberts interviewing President Gerald Ford. (Courtesy Gerald R. Ford Presidential Foundation)

NEW YORK (AP/WOOD) — Cokie Roberts, the daughter of politicians who grew up to cover the family business in Washington for ABC News and NPR over several decades, died Tuesday in Washington of complications from breast cancer. She was 75.

ABC broke into network programming to announce her death and pay tribute.

Roberts was the daughter of Hale Boggs, a former House majority leader from Louisiana, and Lindy Boggs, who succeeded her husband in Congress. Roberts worked in local news and CBS News before joining NPR to cover Congress in 1978. She joined ABC a decade later, not leaving NPR.

She co-anchored the Sunday political show “This Week” with Sam Donaldson from 1996 to 2002.

“Cokie Roberts was a trailblazer who forever transformed the role of women in the newsroom and in our history books,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said. “Over five decades of celebrated journalism, Cokie shone a powerful light on the unsung women who built our nation, but whose stories had long gone untold.”

FILE - In this Sept. 14, 2016, file photo, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, left, of Calif., greets journalist Cokie Roberts, right, in the Great Hall of the Library of Congress in Washington. Roberts, a longtime political reporter and analyst at ABC News and NPR has died, ABC announced Tuesday, Sept. 17, 2019. She was 75. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
FILE – In this Sept. 14, 2016, file photo, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, left, of Calif., greets journalist Cokie Roberts, right, in the Great Hall of the Library of Congress in Washington. Roberts, a longtime political reporter and analyst at ABC News and NPR has died, ABC announced Tuesday, Sept. 17, 2019. She was 75. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

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.

In a statement, Susan Ford Bales, the daughter of President Gerald R. Ford and Betty Ford, said “like millions of Americans, I was deeply saddened at the news of the death of Cokie Roberts.”

For me, Cokie’s death is a personal loss – a very personal loss. For decades, she and the Boggs family were dear friends of Dad and Mom and our family. Despite the fact the Congressman Gerald Ford and Congressman Hale Boggs were adversaries on Capitol Hill, the two of them and our families were always steadfast friends – always. Thus, it was no surprise when Mom considered who should speak at her funeral, she called upon our dear friend Cokie. As a journalist and author, Cokie told the stories of America and Americans with integrity, fairness, impeccable accuracy, and, yes, grace. Whether engaged in a spirited discussion with a Sunday morning panel, reporting from the floor of a national political convention, or sharing historical perspectives about presidents and first ladies, Cokie made us pause and reflect; Cokie made us appreciate a different perspective; and Cokie shined a light on the greatness of America’s tapestry. My thoughts and prayers, as most certainly would be those of Dad and Mom, are with Cokie and her beloved family.

Cokie Roberts at the First Ladies Luncheon. (Courtesy Gerald R. Ford Presidential Foundation)
Cokie Roberts at the First Ladies Luncheon. (Courtesy Gerald R. Ford Presidential Foundation)

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.”

Roberts, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2002, kept working nearly to the end. She appeared on “This Week” in August, drawing enough concern about her evident weight loss that she released a statement saying “I am doing fine” and was looking forward to covering next year’s election.

She co-wrote a political column for many years with her husband of 53 years, Steven, who survives. They had two children.

Roberts wrote books, focusing on the role of women in history. She wrote two with her husband, one about interfaith families and “From This Day Forward,” an account of their marriage.

FILE- In this April 19, 2017, file photo, Cokie Roberts speaks during the opening ceremony for Museum of the American Revolution in Philadelphia. Roberts, a longtime political reporter and analyst at ABC News and NPR has died, ABC announced Tuesday, Sept. 17, 2019. She was 75. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

Current ABC News political reporter Jonathan Karl recalled being in awe of Roberts when he first started working at the network.

“When I think of politics, I think of Cokie Roberts,” he said.

Her colleagues said she never became cynical or lost her love for politics. She did force NPR to clarify her role as a commentator when she wrote a column in 2016 calling on “the rational wing” of the Republican party to reject Donald Trump as their presidential candidate.

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