‘She changed the business’: Sam Donaldson on the legacy of Cokie Roberts

Former “This Week” co-anchor Sam Donaldson and longtime ABC News Contributor George Will honor the life and legacy of Cokie Roberts.
8:23 | 09/22/19

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Transcript for ‘She changed the business’: Sam Donaldson on the legacy of Cokie Roberts
What is your definition of womanizing, Sam? It's not mine. The accusations were made against you. What is your definition of the term? I don't know. I simply say to you. If you -- Well, all right. Cokie, do you have a definition. Most women know it when they see it senator. A classic moment from one of cokie's earliest appearances on "This week." That was back in 1989. She was a fixture on "This week" with David Brinkley joining Sam Donaldson and George will questioning the powerful and debating the news. In 1996 she became co-anchor of this program. Sam and George are standing by to reflect on cokie. First a look back at her time here at "This week." Announcer: From ABC news, "This week" with cokie Roberts, Sam Donaldson. Reporter: It was 1996. Cokie reports, the new co-anchor of "This week." New set, new program. A lot of familiar faces. Reporter: The featured guest that morning, then senate majority leader Republican Trent Lott. Are you going to sit back and wait and see what comes in your direction? We haven't even been sworn in. Reporter: One of hundreds of interviews on this program. On the tax pledge, would you take it again? Reporter: Prominent public figures. Mr. Trump, the only person we've elected that haven't held other officers won wars. George Washington, Dwight Eisenhower. Why would we take your seriously running for president? Reporter: And first ladies. As a mother of a son who I am extremely fond of, it must be an odd notion seeing your little boy running for president. It is. You're interviewing the wrong person. I think he's close to perfect. Reporter: Through it all bringing her signature wit to Sunday morning. All the surveys say December is the most stressful month. I don't know why it's stressful for men. This is a month that women do all the cooking and all the shopping. Go ahead and be stressed if you want to. Reporter: A steady force, sometimes corralling a feisty round table. Now that we've done politics, religion and sex, we'll end. Reporter: Our compass all these years later. Can the president learn from his mistakes? We haven't seen that in the past. Reporter: Still contributing to this program whenever possible. Her last appearance a month ago, health issues not stopping her from telling it like she saw it. It's not mental illness that causes nine people to die in 30 seconds. It's a high-gauge weapon. Reporter: Above all putting family first. Her husband Steve by her side for more than 50 years. Mother to her two children Lee and Rebecca and her six grandchildren, all celebrating marriage, friendship, life and love together. An inspiration to her viewers and to those of us lucky enough to call her a colleague and a friend. Sam Donaldson and George will join me now. Gentlemen, it's great to see you and have you back here. Sam, I want to start with you. You watched that. What are your reflections there? Martha, I just watched four bright women on the round table discussing the news of the day. When cokie joined us she said it was like going into the lion's den. David Brinkley, George will and Sam Donaldson. She tamed us and changed the business. She helped bring women, as you know, I just heard your panelists say that, into full power, not just full power, but we're now the endangered gender, George. I think you got nothing to worry about, Sam. I think cokie would say that as well. George, what are your thoughts? It's been well said the past is another country. Cokie was from another Washington. Washington before tribalism swallowed civility. Washington before constant hysteria was taken as a sign of sophistication. She lived here long enough and she had known enough people on both sides of the aisle to see many things. She had an emotional equilibrium that gave her a credibility in a town of constant hysteria. She was constant with that emotional equilibrium and that moral clarity. Sam, think back on some of the great anecdotes. I know you have so many and the moments you shared with cokie we didn't see. Everyone has been playing a clip of cokie's great ability to puncture a pomposity. That's a great way to say it. In 1989 John tower was nominated to be secretary of defense. He had a lot of enemies in the senate. They were saying he was drinking too much. He came to the show and started out by saying I won't touch a drop of alcohol, but there were other things they said. I said senator they say you're a womanizer. No, Sam, what's a womanizer? I started stumbling around. Every woman I ever knew was watching the program and I didn't want to define it. Cokie Roberts spoke up very gently and said senator, I know one when I see one. John tower went like this. Just one of the moments where she used a stiletto, not a hammer and did it. George? When the Clinton administration was having trouble finding an ambassador for the Vatican acceptable by the Vatican, they came to Lindy boggs and said would you do it? She said I'm -- she was in retirement. She was in her 80s. She was happy and reluctant to do it. Her daughter cokie, said, mom, do it. Being an ambassador to the Vatican is two things you love to do, go to mass and go to parties. Could I say one more? Please. Cokie was a very moral person. Not all Washington is that way. She had very high standards. She applied those standards to both the democratic and the Republican party and their members. There was a time during the Monica Lewinsky affair with president Clinton, the president had confessed to the grand jury that there had been nine occasions when there was a sex act. That's what most people thought. Another problem he said earlier under oath to a federal judge that he had no sexual relationships with Monica Lewinsky. Okay. How do we square this? The campaign was oral sex is not sex. A very distinguished lawyer tried to make the case on our program, that that was not sex in the meaning of sexual intercourse, all that. I stumbled around. Maybe you stumbled around if you recall it. It came to cokie. She simply looked at this very fine lawyer, a man doing his job, and said do you think your wife would buy that? Right to the point. That poor man's face blanked. George, we have about 15 seconds here. What do we take from cokie going forward? It was possible before and it shall come again this kind of person who will typify Washington. Not the Washington with a snarl on its face, but Washington with her incandescent smile. She lives on. She certainly does live on in all of us. Thanks to both of you.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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