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Three-time Emmy winner interviewed popes and presidents

RITA Cosby has written two New York Times bestsellers, has collected a batch of Emmys for her TV shows and has even had a day named after her.

The 49-year-old has interviewed more than 20 world leaders including Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic who called her from his prison cell at the Hague where he stood trial for war crimes.

Among the statesmen she has quizzed are five US Presidents including Bill Clinton and she conducted historic back-to-back interviews with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

Cosby was one of the last American journalists to meet Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi and was granted rare meetings with Pope Benedict XVI, and years earlier with Pope John Paul II to discuss death penalty issues after receiving an exclusive letter from Timothy McVeigh explaining why he carried out the Oklahoma City bombing.

She covered Hurricane Katrina and soon after reported live from the war zone in Afghanistan and then along the US-Mexico border.

Cosby was the first reporter to see prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay and witness an interrogation, she also interviewed numerous celebrities and sports stars including Michael Jackson, Simon Cowell, Tom Hanks, Mike Tyson, Bruce Willis, Matt Damon, Stevie Wonder, Jon Bon Jovi, Hank Aaron, Mariano Rivera and Dennis Rodman.

Honours for the three-time Emmy winner include the Matrix Award, Headliner Award and Jack Anderson Award for journalism excellence. She was also selected by Cosmopolitan Magazine as a "Fun and Fearless Female".

A recipient of the Ellis Island Medal of Honor and the Lech Walesa Freedom Award, she hosts the National Memorial Day Parade broadcast to all US military installations around the world.

In 2007 her book, Blonde Ambition, about Anna Nicole Smith she detailed the circumstances around the model's death and ended up the subject of a challenge from Nicole Smith's estate, which led to a civil lawsuit against Cosby which was later voluntarily dismissed.

October 11, 2010 was declared Rita Cosby Day in New York in recognition of her "extraordinary journalism and exemplary service on behalf of her community".

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