"I never met her. She never treated me nicely. But I would like to wish her family well. She was a professional, and I respect professionals," Trump told reporters aboard Air Force One en route to California. "I respect you guys a lot, you people a lot. She was a real professional. Never treated me well, but I certainly respect her as a professional."
Trump's tense relationship with the press has become a cornerstone of his administration, with the President repeatedly admonishing journalists as "the enemy of the people." His comments on Tuesday — and, notably, his complaint that Roberts "never treated me nicely" — stood in stark contrast to the praise Roberts' memory received elsewhere as a trailblazer in journalism.
Trump's predecessor, former President Barack Obama, released a statement Tuesday calling Roberts "a role model to young women at a time when the profession was still dominated by men; a constant over forty years of a shifting media landscape and changing world, informing voters about the issues of our time and mentoring young journalists every step of the way." And former Vice President Joe Biden, the 2020 Democratic presidential front-runner who served under Obama for eight years, echoed that sentiment in a tweet, calling Roberts "a pioneer."
"Relentless in her pursuit of the truth and steadfast in her commitment to breaking down barriers for women in journalism—our country is better because of it," Biden said.
Former President George W. Bush memorialized Roberts in his own statement Tuesday, celebrating her as "a talented, tough, and fair reporter."
"We respected her drive and appreciated her humor," the nation's 43rd President said. "She became a friend."
Roberts died at age 75 "due to complications from breast cancer," her family said in a statement Tuesday.
She worked in television, public radio and publishing for more than 40 years, beginning her tenure at ABC as a contributor for "This Week with David Brinkley" and later becoming ABC's chief congressional analyst.
In a memo to staffers announcing Cokie's death Tuesday, ABC News president James Goldston said her "kindness, generosity, sharp intellect and thoughtful take on the big issues of the day made ABC a better place and all of us better journalists. Please take a moment today to remember an exceptional reporter and remarkable friend."
CNN's Kerry Flynn contributed to this report.