- The Washington Times - Monday, May 26, 2003

Politicians and media colleagues utterly failed in their assignment to roast the revered Cokie Roberts at the American News Women’s Club’s annual dinner.

“It’s intimidating,” former Rep. Constance A. Morella said. “How does one roast Mother Teresa?”

Consequently, roasting took a back seat to toasting at last Wednesday’s dinner at Georgetown’s Four Seasons Hotel, where Mrs. Roberts received the 2003 ANWC Helen Thomas Award for Excellence in Journalism.

“I’m honored to have an award named after Helen Thomas,” Mrs. Roberts said during her brief acceptance speech. “I’ve gotten a lot of awards in the name of dead white men.”

ABC News weekend anchor Carole Simpson, who emceed the event in a tiara and changed outfits several times during the evening, let her garb tell the story of the 59-year old guest of honor’s many qualities as a mother and pioneer for women in journalism.

“I don’t want to just talk about her exterior beauty,” Mrs. Simpson told 400 applauding dinner guests. “Not only does she have a beautiful exterior, she has a beautiful interior … a beautiful soul.”

Mrs. Roberts was recently diagnosed and treated for breast cancer but looked unfazed by her ordeal. She is continuing with her assignments on ABC and National Public Radio.

“I feel fine,” Mrs. Roberts said. “And I have no intention of retiring.”

Mrs. Morella spoke of the honoree’s great knowledge of politics, which started when Mrs. Roberts, the daughter of former Reps. Hale and Lindy Boggs, was a young child and already had “floor privileges” in Congress.

“She even remembers when Alan Simpson had hair and Joe Biden didn’t,” Mrs. Morella said to roaring laughter.

Rep. Barney Frank highlighted Mrs. Roberts’ great integrity and high principles in a city where situational ethics often are applied.

“She has been the example of principles … without an ounce of self-righteousness,” Mr. Frank said. “Of all the people of high integrity that I have met, she is the least pain ….”

Several female colleagues lauded her for paving the way for other women and for always being a team player.

“It’s fitting that Carole talked about Cokie’s support of women because that’s the thing Cokie is best known for,” said Linda Douglass, also of ABC News.

Though standing up for women, Mrs. Roberts can hardly be considered a feminist in the bra-burning sense of the word, Ms. Douglass noted: “If someone showed up without a bra, she’d send them home to put one on.”

Linda Wertheimer, one of Mrs. Roberts’ colleagues at NPR, reiterated sentiments about her friend’s thoughtful and caring ways and the fact that she can’t say “no” to anything.

“It’s probably a good thing that she married young — all things considered,” Mrs. Wertheimer punned.

Mrs. Roberts and her journalist husband, Steve Roberts(also her co-author on “From This Day Forward,” their book about marriage and how to make it last),have been married since 1966 —”several centuries in dog years,” as Mrs. Wertheimer pointed out to guests, who included Israeli Ambassador Daniel Ayalon, lawyer Robert Barnett, former Rep.Patricia Schroeder, journalistsLark McCarthyand Kathleen Matthews, Esther Coopersmith,Debbie Dingell and many of Mrs. Robert’s family members, including her brother,lobbyistTommy Boggs.

Also “roasting” were Nina Totenberg, Mr. Roberts and Jan Smith impersonating her husband, ABC News correspondent Sam Donaldson, in a red tie and fake eyebrows.

Former presidents Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford also commented via letters on Mrs. Roberts’ good work in the field of journalism.

“No letter from Bill Clinton?” asked Mrs. Roberts, who was known to grill the former president on his alleged affairs.

Nope. But there was one from White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer expressing just how seriously President Bush takes Mrs. Roberts’ well-honed skills.

“President Bush has a great deal of respect and admiration for Cokie Roberts, but he is always careful not to make her mad because he knows that he will pay a high price. She will tell his mother.”

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