U.S. journalist Cokie Roberts, a 'founding mother' of National Public Radio, dead at 75

(Reuters) - U.S. journalist Cokie Roberts, regarded by National Public Radio as one of its “founding mothers” and a prominent political commentator on ABC News, died on Tuesday at 75 at her Washington home from complications of breast cancer, her family said.

Roberts worked in radio as a foreign correspondent for CBS and a congressional correspondent for NPR in the 1970s. She went on to become ABC’s chief congressional analyst.

NPR President Jarl Mohn called the Emmy Award winner one of NPR’s “founding mothers” in a statement, describing her as “the trusted voice that Americans count on when political news breaks.”

She was born Mary Martha Corinne Morrison Claiborne Boggs on Dec. 27, 1943, to a prominent political family in Louisiana. She got her nickname Cokie from her brother, who struggled to pronounce “Corinne” when they were children.

Her father, Hale Boggs, was a major force in New Orleans Democratic politics who served in the U.S. House of Representatives for 25 years and became majority leader in the early 1970s when his party ran the chamber. After his plane disappeared over Alaska in October 1972, her mother, Lindy Boggs, was elected to his seat and served through the end of 1990.

Roberts rose to prominence at a time when broadcast news and political analysis were mostly presented by men. Along with NPR colleagues Nina Totenberg, Linda Wertheimer and Susan Stamberg, she helped shape the sound and culture of the public broadcaster.

Two of Roberts’ journalistic subjects, former U.S. President George W. Bush and his wife, Laura Bush, noted her drive and humor in a joint statement.

U.S. journalist Cokie Roberts poses in an undated handout photo obtained by Reuters on September 17, 2019. Courtesy ABC Photo Archive/via REUTERS THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVES

“She covered us for decades as a talented, tough, and fair reporter,” their statement said. “She became a friend.”


She and her husband, the journalist Steven Roberts, collaborated on a syndicated column that ran in newspapers across the country.

During the 2016 presidential campaign, they wrote a column calling on the “rational wing” of the Republican Party to stop then-candidate Donald Trump from becoming its nominee for president.

“She never treated me nicely,” Trump told reporters on Tuesday aboard Air Force One. “But I would like to wish her family well. She was a professional and I respect professionals.”

Roberts won numerous awards for her work, including three Emmys, U.S. television’s top award. In 2008, the Library of Congress recognized her as a “Living Legend.”

Roberts wrote several books about overlooked women in American political history, including “Founding Mothers,” about the wives and other female relatives of the men who helped create the American republic. Her last book, published in 2015, was “Capital Dames: the Civil War and the Women of Washington, 1848-1868.”

She often spoke of women as playing a civilizing role in society.

“I don’t just see this role of women as caretakers in the world that I cover, I see it in the world I live in,” she said in her commencement speech at Wellesley College, her alma mater, in 1994. “Slowly, slowly, slowly but definitely, the workplace is becoming a more humane place because of the presence of women.”

She is survived by her husband of 53 years and by two children and six grandchildren, her family said in a statement.

Reporting by Peter Szekely and Jonathan Allen in New York; Additional reporting by Jeff Mason on Air Force One and Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Peter Cooney