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Cokie Roberts, Journalist Savvy About Politics, Dies at 75

Journalist Cokie Roberts, who was a contributing senior news analyst for NPR, a regular round-table analyst for “This Week With George Stephanopoulos” and a political commentator for ABC News, among many other contributions during a four-decade career, has died. She was 75.

Roberts died Tuesday due to complications from breast cancer, her family confirmed.

“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,” her family said in a statement. “We will miss Cokie beyond measure, both for her contributions and for her love and kindness.”

“Our dear friend and colleague Cokie Roberts passed away this morning in Washington, surrounded by her family and closest friends,” ABC News President James Goldston said in a statement Tuesday morning. “A true pioneer for women in journalism, Cokie was well-regarded for her insightful analysis of politics and policy in Washington, DC., countless newsmaking interviews, and, notably, her unwavering support for the generations of young women – and men – who would follow her in her footsteps.”

Barack Obama offered condolences, writing in a statement, “Michelle and I are sad to hear about the passing of Cokie Roberts. She was a trailblazing figure; a role model to young women at a time when the profession was still dominated by men; a constant over forty years of a shifting media landscape and changing world, informing voters about the issues of our time and mentoring young journalists every step of the way. She will be missed – and we send our condolences to her family.”

Roberts started at ABC in 1988 as a panelist on “This Week With David Brinkley.” With Sam Donaldson she anchored the network’s weekly interview series “This Week” from 1996-2002. She was also chief congressional analyst for ABC News, reporting on politics and public policy for “World News Tonight” and other ABC News programs, while also frequently subbing for Ted Koppel on “Nightline.”

At NPR Roberts contributed to “Morning Edition” and previously served as the congressional correspondent for more than 10 years, starting when she joined the public radio network in 1978. She started in radio at CBS News Radio in 1976, reporting from Athens, Greece.

From 1981-84, in addition to her responsibilities at NPR, she co-hosted “The Lawmakers,” a weekly public television program on Congress.

From 1984-88 Roberts was a contributor to PBS’ “MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour,” where her coverage of the Iran-Contra Affair won her the Edward Weintal Prize for Diplomatic Reporting in 1988.

She started out in television producing and hosting a public affairs program on WRC-TV in Washington, D.C.

Roberts drew some criticism over the course of her career, including accusations of a conflict of interest in her reporting on Guatemala given close ties to a paid lobbyist for the government of that country. Some of the concern over her reporting was connected to her close ties to her brother, Thomas H. Boggs Jr. When he died in 2014, the Washington Post opened its obituary by calling him “a Washington lobbyist whose indefatigable networking, finesse for dealmaking and deep-rooted connections to American political life placed him squarely in the epicenter of the city’s power-broker elite.” In a 1992 report the organization Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting upbraided her for “regularly calling for cuts in Social Security and Medicare, while showing no such zeal for reducing the post-Cold War military budget.”

A 1994 article in the New York Times was far friendlier: “For the 14.7 million listeners of National Public Radio, Cokie Roberts, 50, Linda Wertheimer, 50, and Nina Totenberg, 49, are the Three Musketeers: gutsy, witty, informed reporters who break stories from inside the Washington political machine. As a troika they have succeeded in revolutionizing political reporting.” Roberts was praised for her “savvy Congressional reporting.”

Mary Martha Corinne Morrison Claiborne Boggs was born in New Orleans. Her parents were Hale Boggs, who rose to Democratic House majority leader before his plane disappeared in 1972, and Lindy Boggs, who ran successfully for her husband’s vacated seat, spent seven terms in Congress and served as U.S. ambassador to the Holy See from 1997-2001.

According to a profile of Roberts on the Paley Center for Media website, “The childhood she had was far from ordinary. Her parents made sure their children were a part of everything that came with being in a political family. By the time she was seven years old, Roberts could stuff envelopes like a campaign veteran.’ There were perks as well — she counted President Lyndon B. Johnson, who attended her wedding to Steven Roberts, and former Speaker of the House Sam Rayburn, a frequent dinner guest at the Boggs’s home in New Orleans, as close family friends.”

She received a B.A. in political science from Wellesley College, graduating in 1964.

Roberts and her husband, Steven V. Roberts, wrote a weekly column syndicated in newspapers around the country by United Media. The couple were also contributing editors to USA Weekend Magazine, and together they wrote New York Times bestseller “From This Day Forward,” recounting their four-decade marriage as well as other marriages in American history. Earlier, Cokie Roberts penned the No. 1 bestseller “We Are Our Mothers’ Daughters,” exploring women’s roles and relationships throughout American history. Roberts’ histories of women in the country’s early years — “Founding Mothers,” published in 2004, and “Ladies of Liberty,” in 2008 — were also bestsellers.

Roberts drew plaudits including the Edward R. Murrow Award, the Everett McKinley Dirksen Award for coverage of Congress and three Emmys, including a 1991 award for her contribution to the story “Who is Ross Perot?”

Roberts did a stint as president of the Radio and Television Correspondents’ Association.

She was inducted into the Broadcasting and Cable Hall of Fame, and the organization American Women in Radio and Television named her one of the 50 greatest women in the history of broadcasting.

She is survived by her husband, Steven V. Roberts, a professor and fellow journalist to whom she had been married since 1966; a daughter, journalist Rebecca Roberts; a son, Lee; and at least six grandchildren.

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