Updated: Cokie Roberts, Longtime Journalist and Bethesda Resident, Dies at 75

Updated: Cokie Roberts, Longtime Journalist and Bethesda Resident, Dies at 75

Her death was due to complications from breast cancer

| Published:
Cokie Roberts resized

Cokie Roberts

Deborah Jaffe

Cokie Roberts, a longtime journalist and political commentator for ABC News and National Public Radio, died Tuesday morning at the age of 75.

Roberts, who lived in Bethesda, died “due to complications from breast cancer,” according to a statement from her family. (Roberts’ husband, Steve Roberts, is a columnist for Bethesda Magazine.)

News of Roberts’ death was first reported by ABC News.

Roberts, according to ABC News, had said over the summer that she was dealing with health problems that required treatment and led to weight loss. She was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2002, but was successfully treated at the time.

Roberts began her career at CBS in the 1970s as a radio foreign correspondent before covering Congress in the 1980s. She began working at NPR in 1978 and was a contributing analyst for PBS. Her work on NPR continued for four decades.

Roberts went to work for ABC News in 1988, serving as a political commentator and chief congressional analyst for the program “This Week.” From 1996 to 2002, she co-anchored the program with Sam Donaldson and continued as a commentator when George Stephanopoulos became host.

She received numerous awards and accolades during her career including three Emmys and induction into the Broadcasting and Cable Hall of Fame. She was cited as one of the 50 greatest women in the history of broadcasting by the American Women in Radio and Television.

“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,” the family said in a statement Tuesday.

Roberts was born Mary Martha Corinne Morrison Claiborne Boggs on Dec. 27, 1943, in New Orleans.

In 1952, when Roberts was 8, her family moved to Bethesda so that her father, Hale Boggs, could focus on his political career. Steve Roberts wrote in Bethesda Magazine in 2010 that after walking into the house, Cokie Roberts said “I love this house. I want my daddy to buy it.”

Steve and Cokie Roberts later lived in the same house as adults.

Boggs, was a Democratic congressman who represented Louisiana in the House for 28 years, until he was killed in a plane crash in 1972. Roberts’ mother, Lindy Boggs, was elected the following year to fill her late husband’s vacated seat, and she went on to serve in the House for 18 years. She died in 2013.

Roberts attended Wellesley College in Massachusetts, graduating with a degree in political science in 1964.

In 1962, she met Steve Roberts at a political conference at Ohio State University. Steve Roberts, as reported in Bethesda Magazine in 2007, was impressed that Cokie spoke at the conference, and did so “forcefully,” since most female students sat quietly taking notes.

Cokie and Steve Roberts married in 1966 despite some trepidation from Cokie’s father about differences between their religions (she was Catholic and he was Jewish). The two were married in an interfaith ceremony attended by several prominent politicians, including President Lyndon Johnson and former Supreme Court Justice Arthur Goldberg.

Because interfaith weddings were rare at the time, the families could not find a rabbi willing to co-officiate with Cokie’s uncle, who was a priest. Goldberg offered the Jewish blessing.

The Robertses moved to Athens, Greece, following the death of Cokie’s father. Steve Roberts had an overseas post with The New York Times. They returned to Bethesda in 1977.

Cokie Roberts said in a 2007 interview with Bethesda Magazine, before she began appearing on television, that the public had a different perception of her.

“I was the wife. You can be completely invisible — Washington is terrible that way,” she said.

Her daughter, Rebecca Roberts, who is also a journalist, credited her mother in the same article for successfully balancing her parenting responsibilities with her career.

“I had the example of a mom who worked incredibly hard, at a rather unpredictable job, but still managed to be a truly fabulous parent who is still one of my best friends.”

Roberts is survived by her husband Steve, children Lee and Rebecca Roberts, and grandchildren Regan, Hale and Cecilia Roberts and Claiborne, Jack and Roland Hartman, as well as numerous nieces, nephews and cousins.

Roberts was preceded in death by her parents, Hale and Lindy Boggs, who died in 1972 and 2013, as well as her sister Barbara Boggs Sigmund, who died in 1990, and her brother Thomas Hale Boggs Jr., who died in 2014.

Dan Schere can be reached at Daniel.schere@bethesdamagazine.com

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