Cokie Roberts, trailblazing reporter distinguished by faith, dies at 75
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.
The passing of Roberts elicited grief from politicians, journalists and news organizations on social media. National Public Radio called Roberts one of their “longest-running and most recognizable voices.” The New York Times, in their obituary, referred to her as “pioneering.”
On Twitter, former First Lady of California Maria Shriver wrote, “[Roberts] did it all with grace. She worked to give other women a seat at the table.” Roberts’ colleague at ABC News, Terry Moran, named her “[a] fierce patriot.”
America also mourns the passing of Roberts, a contributor to the magazine. The Rev. Matt Malone, S.J., president and editor-in-chief of America Media, wrote on Twitter, “It was a real gift to know [Roberts].”
“When I think of politics, I think of Cokie Roberts.”
The Rev. James Martin, S.J., editor-at-large, posted a reflection on Instagram, summarizing her spirit: “Cokie loved God, loved the Catholic Church, loved Catholic sisters especially, and was a model for so many women and men of faith in public life.”
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.”
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,” Mr. 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.”
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.
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.