Janet Langhart

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Janet Langhart
Janet Langhart 2006 New York City.JPG
Janet Langhart in New York City, 2006
Born Janet Leola Floyd
(1940-12-22) December 22, 1940 (age 75)[1]
Indianapolis, Indiana, USA
Occupation Writer, journalist
Nationality American
Spouse Melvin Anthony Langhart (m. ?-?)
Robert Kistner (m. 1978-1989)
William Cohen (m. 1996-present)

Janet Langhart Cohen (born December 22, 1940) is an American model, television journalist and author. She serves as President and CEO of Langhart Communications and is the spouse of former Defense Secretary William Cohen. In June 2009, her one-act play Anne and Emmett premiered at the United States Holocaust Museum.

Early life[edit]

She was born as Janet Leola Floyd in Indianapolis, and raised in an Indianapolis housing project by her mother, who worked as a maid and hospital ward secretary.[2] According to her book, Love in Black and White: A Memoir of Race, Religion, and Romance, her parents were both African-American; she also has European and Native American heritage. Her unmarried mother, Mary, formed a relationship with her father, Sewell Bridges, at a young age. Bridges served in World War II and abandoned[3] his family after the war.[4]

In 1959, Floyd earned her high school diploma from Crispus Attucks High School in Indianapolis. She was a member of the band and debate team. From 1960 until 1962, she attended Butler University, a private liberal arts university in Indianapolis founded by abolitionist and attorney Ovid Butler in 1855.

Floyd was married to Melvin Anthony Langhart for one year. Her second of three marriages was to Dr. Robert Kistner, a Harvard Medical School professor who specialized in the treatment of endometriosis.[5] Floyd, now Langhart, was married to Kistner from 1978 to 1989.

Media career[edit]

In 1962, Langhart began her career in Chicago as a model, where she worked for Marshall Field's and the Ebony Fashion Fair, and she was named Miss Chicagoland. At the age of 29, she became the first black "weathergirl" for WBBM-TV. She became a noted black television journalist at a variety of outlets, most notably Boston's WCVB-TV, where she cohosted the morning program Good Day! (originally titled Good Morning!) for three stints between 1973 and 1987. During her career, she interviewed numerous personalities including Rosa Parks and David Duke. She became friends with Muhammad Ali and F. Lee Bailey, and considered Martin Luther King a personal mentor.

Langhart worked on a television show at WOR-TV in New York City called 9 Broadcast Plaza alongside Richard Bey. She was fired from Entertainment Tonight in 1990 after she asked Arnold Schwarzenegger, apparently violating an agreement he had with producers, about his father Gustav Schwarzenegger's Nazi background. "I was terminated by The Terminator", she remarked. Later, she was a commentator on Black Entertainment Television (BET). She has also worked for the Boston Globe and WCVB-TV in Boston.,[6] and she has been a spokeswoman for U.S. News and World Report and Avon Cosmetics.[7]

Marriage to Cohen and Pentagon life[edit]

On February 14, 1996, Langhart married United States Senator William Cohen (R-Maine). She and Cohen first became mutual admirers in 1974 during an interview in Boston, when he was a Congressman from Maine, but did not meet in person until she worked for BET in Washington, D.C., and Andrew Young set up a news interview for her. They remained friends, and after both became single again, they began dating when Langhart asked Cohen to take care of a dog that had turned up at the BET offices. The couple were married in the United States Capitol on Valentine's Day 1996. Cohen, a moderate Republican, was chosen to serve as President Bill Clinton's Secretary of Defense. Langhart is a liberal Democrat.[7]

When Langhart-Cohen's husband became Secretary of Defense, she became known as "First Lady of the Pentagon." This was due to her active and visible public role while Cohen was in office. She spurred several initiatives aimed at morale and well-being of military and civilian employees of the Defense Department, including the Military Family Forum, the Pentagon Pops concert series, the Secretary of Defense Annual Holiday Tour (an entertainment revue), and her own series of interviews on Pentagon TV, Special Assignment. She was given a volunteer position as "First Lady of the USO" and helped recruit celebrities and civilians to work with the United Service Organizations.[7]

In 1999, she founded the Citizen Patriot Organization (CPO), a non-profit dedicated to recognizing "those who serve, protect, and defend the United States of America". The group periodically presents a CPO Award. The award has been given to Jack Valenti and John McCain. The group has also organized events including a Homeland Defense Tour, which brought USO-like appreciation events to first responders at the September 11 attacks sites and other domestic locations, and a Citizen Patriot tour to military locations overseas.[citation needed]


Langhart is the author of a memoir, My Life in Two Americas; From Rage to Reason. In February 2007 she and her husband William Cohen released Love in Black and White. It is a memoir about race, religion, and the bonds that Langhart and Cohen share over similar life circumstances and backgrounds.[8]

Langhart is also the author of Anne and Emmett, a play that imagines a conversation between two teens, Nazi victim Anne Frank and Jim Crow victim Emmett Till.

Holocaust Museum shooting[edit]

On the afternoon of June 10, 2009, Langhart was on her way to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum for the premiere of her one-act play, Anne and Emmett,[9] which had been promoted the week before in the Washington Post and presented in honor of the eightieth anniversary of Anne Frank's birth. Langhart's husband, William Cohen, was at the museum waiting when 88-year-old James Wenneker von Brunn fatally shot a security guard before being shot himself by the other guards. Langhart and her husband were not injured, and appeared on CNN that afternoon to describe what they had seen.


  1. ^ 72 age told as guest on C-SPAN Aug. 9, 2013
  2. ^ "Janet Langhart". Nndb.com. Retrieved 2009-06-12. 
  3. ^ Langhart, My Life in Two Americas; From Rage to Reason, p. 43
  4. ^ Lisa Frydman (June 9, 2004). "Pretty Powerful". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 2007-04-10. 
  5. ^ New York Times obituary Robert W. Kistner, 72, Gynecologist, Is Dead, February 10, 1990
  6. ^ Beggy, Carol; Shanahan, Mark (May 12, 2004). "Langhart Cohen has a read on Barnicle". Boston Globe. Retrieved 2007-04-10. 
  7. ^ a b c Lynn Norment (November 2000). "Janet Langhart Cohen: First Lady Of the Pentagon". Ebony magazine. Retrieved 2007-04-10. 
  8. ^ Washington Post, Names & Faces August 18, 2006; p. C03
  9. ^ Brevis, Vita. "DailyKos". DailyKos. Retrieved 2009-06-12. 


  • (Langhart) Cohen, William and Janet (2007). Love in Black and White: A Memoir of Race, Religion, and Romance. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc. p. 373. ISBN 978-0-7425-5821-2. 
  • Langhart, Janet (2004). My Life in Two Americas; From Rage to Reason. New York: Kensington. p. 336. ISBN 978-0-7582-0393-9. 

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