An award-winning and well-respected longtime anchor and correspondent for ABC News, Cokie Roberts, passed away on Tuesday at the age of 75 following complications from her years-long struggle with breast cancer, and all of the politicians she covered in a tough but respectful manner — such as Bill and Hillary Clinton — are no doubt sighing with relief even as they share in the grief over her loss.
ABC News called Roberts a “pioneer” for women in journalism who had reached “legendary” status by winning dozens of prestigious awards over her lengthy career in journalism.
Born into a political family — her father and mother both served in Congress — Roberts chose a different route and joined the media in the 1970s, eventually becoming a Capitol Hill correspondent in the 1980s and then a co-anchor alongside Sam Donaldson at ABC in the mid-1990s to early 2000s. She continued to offer insightful political commentary and write best-selling books well after her anchoring days had ended.
In a Washington Examiner op-ed, Roberts was described as a throwback to “old-school” journalism in that, even as a liberal-leaning reporter from a Democratic family, she nonetheless provided “fact-based, fair-minded, and thoughtful” coverage on the news of the day that was readily accepted by both conservatives and liberals alike.
Particularly in recent years, Roberts was an all-too-rare representation of how “straight news” journalists should perform their job — “without malice or hidden agenda” — with one clear example being the way in which she distinctly differentiated between her liberal-leaning commentary and her unopinionated coverage of regular news events. She also quite often railed against increasing partisan “tribalism” on both sides of the divide between “loyalists” and “resisters.”
Frank assessments of the Clintons
With respect to the Clintons, the Examiner noted that Roberts provided “even-handed” coverage of the Clinton-Lewinsky sex scandal that led to impeachment, asking “tough questions” and holding the administration accountable at a time when many of her colleagues were more than willing to give then-President Clinton a pass, if not openly mount a defense on his behalf in their own coverage.
More recently, Roberts took former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to task over the 2012 Benghazi terrorist attack in which four Americans were killed on her watch.
In an interview on ABC prior to the 2016 election, Roberts said, “The fact is, she has to take responsibility for it. She was the secretary of state, it is ‘the buck stops here.’ But I don’t think that’s going to be her biggest problem.”
Roberts surmised that few minds would be changed on the issue of Benghazi as both sides were fairly well dug-in, but nevertheless concluded that Republicans would still attempt to use it against her.
She said, “I think that Benghazi is an albatross around Hillary Clinton’s neck. I don’t think there is any question about that.”
Four U.S. presidents have since weighed in publicly on Roberts’ death — Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Barack Obama, and Donald Trump — with Clinton saying that he “liked and respected” Roberts for her “tough but fair” and “insightful” brand of journalism.
President Trump told reporters “I never met her” and after wishing her family well, he added, “She was a real professional. Never treated me well, but I certainly respect her as a professional.”