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(NEW YORK) – Legendary ABC News journalist and political commentator Cokie Roberts has “two legacies,” her 50-year-old husband said.
“The Public Cokie and the Private Cokie,” fellow journalist Steven Roberts said in an interview with ABC News’s Martha Raddatz. “Audience Cokie was someone who was such a role model for women… but that was only half of his heritage.”
“The other half … [was her belief that] anyone can be a good person. Anyone can learn something about these private acts of generosity, charity and friendship, “he continued.” She lived the gospel every day, and some might say that is the most important legacy she leaves. “
Cokie Roberts was a fixture on national television and radio for over 40 years. She has won countless awards, including three Emmy Awards, throughout her decades-long career. She was inducted into the Broadcast and Cable Hall of Fame and was named by the American Women in Radio and Television as one of the 50 Greatest Women in Broadcasting History. She has also written five best-selling books focusing on the role of women in American history.
“I’ve had so many people say to me, ‘I went into journalism because of Cokie,’” said Steven Roberts. “Countless young women saw her on TV, heard her on the radio and said, ‘I can be her, I could be that strong. I could be that smart. I don’t want to have to hide. who I am. I can be myself. I could be a strong, independent woman. ‘”
Her book, “Cokie: A Life Well Lived”, available Tuesday, is a tribute to his beloved wife after losing her to breast cancer in 2019. It documents their 53-year marriage, her public accomplishments as well that privacy, which he felt was even more inspiring.
Cokie and Steven Roberts met at a young age in college. He was 19 and at Harvard. She was 18 and was dating Wellesley.
“We were at a student policy meeting. I had known his sister. She had known my twin brother, ”he recalls. “Our dorms in Boston are only 12 and a half miles apart. “
Cokie was the daughter of political scions. His parents, Hale and Lindy Boggs, both served in Congress, representing the city of New Orleans for nearly 50 years in total.
“The Speaker of the House, Sam Rayburn, was a frequent dinner guest during his childhood in the 1950s (in the house where I still live), and the Speaker and Mrs. Johnson came to our wedding in 1966 (in the garden of this house), ”writes Steven Roberts.
He joked that he first fell in love with his future mother-in-law and “finally got to Cokie”.
She was a devout Catholic, and he was a Jew. Roberts said it took him three years to propose. He was 23 and she was 22 at the time.
“My mother often said that the first Passover Seder she attended was with her Catholic daughter-in-law… and there was a joke in the family. She was the best Jew in the family, ”he said.
After their wedding, Steven Roberts said the couple moved four times over the next 11 years for their work as New York Times correspondent, and yet, “everywhere we went, [Cokie] worked one way or another. ”She began her career as a foreign radio correspondent for CBS in the 1970s.
“When we were living in Greece… there was a coup in Cyprus. I flew to Cyprus, but then… the Greek government fell and after seven years of military rule it was the biggest story in the world that week, ”he said.[Cokie] started covering it for CBS … I come back to find out I’m married to a veteran foreign correspondent.
Cokie Robert then joined NPR as a full-time reporter, covering Capitol Hill and reporting on the Panama Canal Treaty. She was only 34 years old. In 1987, she was called for a one-time trial for ABC News’ “This Week’s” roundtable. It was the number one Sunday morning show, but it featured three white men – Sam Donaldson, George Will and David Brinkley – and ABC was under pressure to diversify the cast.
Her one-time essay became a weekly appearance and she ultimately earned her place at the table. Roberts co-hosted “This Week” on ABC with Donaldson from 1996-2002. She was also a political commentator, chief congressional analyst, and commentator on “This Week” during her three decades at ABC.
Her husband thinks that the real heart of her attraction was with other women, who thought, “wait, someone who thinks like me, someone who talks like me, someone who sees the world like me. “
“And that was really the basis of his ABC success,” said Roberts.
He explains that at that time, women felt they had to choose between a professional career and a personal life. Cokie Roberts, with two children, six grandchildren and a long marriage, still managed to have the career she did.
Steven Roberts said she will tell women this all the time as she helps them overcome pitfalls and obstacles.
“She said, ‘You can do it. You can’t have it all all the time, but you can have it most of the time, ”he said.
Cokie Roberts was also, according to her husband, “very hard on men who she said hid or abused women.”
When President George W. Bush appointed former Senator John Tower, R-Texas, as Secretary of Defense, Sam Donaldson brought up rumors of “feminization” on the show. Tower turned to Roberts and asked for a definition of the term “feminization”. She quickly retorted in one of the most memorable moments on television, “I think most women know that when they see him, Senator.”
Steven Roberts noted that the response was “phenomenal”, especially among women.
Cokie Roberts has also spoken openly about his long battle with breast cancer. She was first diagnosed in 2002, but long before that, she had become a breast cancer research activist when two of her friends, in their 50s, died of breast cancer that same week.
“When she was diagnosed on her own, she knew all about it, and it was a devastating blow,” said Steven Roberts. “But she received a lot of good treatment and she lived 14 years in remission.”
In “Cokie,” Steven Roberts wrote about his simple goal of honoring his wife.
“To tell stories, some will make you clap, laugh or cry,” he wrote. “And some, I hope, will inspire you to be more like Cokie, to be a good person, to lead a good life.”
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