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Cokie Roberts, longtime political journalist, dies at 75

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Posted at 9:39 AM, Sep 17, 2019
and last updated 2019-09-17 13:07:58-04

NEW YORK (AP) - 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."

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."

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.

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A STATEMENT FROM THE FAMILY OF COKIE ROBERTS

"Her loving family announces the passing of journalist and author Cokie Roberts, due to complications from breast cancer, on September 17.

Born Mary Martha Corinne Morrison Claiborne Boggs on December 27, 1943, Cokie was – first and foremost – a wife, mother, sister, daughter, aunt, cousin and friend.

Cokie’s career as a journalist at National Public Radio and ABC News took her to the heights of her profession, and her success as an author on history and family put her on the best seller list.

But her values put family and relationships above all else.

She is survived by her husband of 53 years, journalist, author and professor Steven V. Roberts, her children Lee Roberts and Rebecca Roberts, her grandchildren Regan, Hale and Cecilia Roberts and Claiborne, Jack and Roland Hartman, along with numerous nieces, nephews, and cousins.

She is also survived by friendships and by causes that she put her time, resources and energy into that are too numerous to count.

We would like to thank the staff at the National Institutes of Health for their dedication, expertise, work and incredible care for Cokie during her illness.

We will miss Cokie beyond measure, both for her contributions and for her love and kindness.

We are hopeful that Cokie now goes to join her parents, former Members of Congress Hale and Lindy Boggs, her siblings Barbara, Tom and William, who predecease her, and her God.”

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Governor John Bel Edwards released the following statement on Roberts' death:

"Our hearts are heavy today in Louisiana as we mourn the loss of Cokie Roberts, a trailblazer, a native of our great state and the daughter of Hale and Lindy Boggs. Cokie had a passion for history and was a legendary journalist who inspired generations of women to pursue careers in political journalism at a time when the profession was dominated by men," Gov. Edwards said. "Just a few months ago, Donna and I had the honor of listening to Cokie speak and it's something we will treasure forever. We will miss Cokie's kindness, compassion and contributions to our state and our country. Please join us in praying for her family, friends, and colleagues during this difficult time."