Richard Valeriani, Longtime 'NBC Nightly News' Correspondent, Dies at 85

Courtesy of Frank Publicity
Richard Valeriani with Phyllis George (left) and his wife, Kathie

He covered Nixon and Kissinger, appeared in 'Crimson Tide' and worked with Kathryn Bigelow and Sumner Redstone as a media trainer.

Richard Valeriani, who spent more than three decades as an on-air correspondent for the NBC Nightly News program and played a journalist in Crimson Tide, died Monday at his home in New York City, a publicist announced. He was 85.

Valeriani served as NBC's senior White House correspondent under Presidents Lyndon B. Johnson and Richard Nixon, where he made the latter's "enemies list." He then became the network's man at the State Department, during which time he covered Henry Kissinger, traveling more than 500,000 miles with the secretary of state.

Valeriani wrote about that time in his life in his 1979 book, Travels With Henry.

He began his career in the late 1950s at the Associated Press, which sent him to Cuba to live and report on the Bay of Pigs invasion. While there, he was hired by NBC and was the last American journalist ousted from the island nation. 

Valeriani also covered the civil rights movement for NBC and co-anchored the Today show from the network's Washington bureau. And he appeared as a CNN correspondent in Tony Scott's 1995 drama Crimson Tide, setting up the film's plot.

In 1996, Valeriani began a new career as a media trainer, working with such high-profile clients as Kathryn Bigelow, Sumner Redstone, Jimmy Fallon, Ted Danson and Phyllis George; executives from the Ford Motor Co., IBM and Merck; and senior officials in the U.S. and foreign governments. 

"I like to describe [the job] as teaching people how to defend themselves against people like me," he said in a 1994 interview with The New York Times.

A native of Camden, New Jersey, Valeriani attended Yale University on a full scholarship and served as sports editor of the Yale Daily News. He was awarded two scholarships after school, one at the University of Pavia in Italy and another at the University of Barcelona. 

Survivors include his wife of 38 years, Kathie, a former senior vp at Rogers & Cowan — Phil Donahue and Mario Thomas were the official witnesses at their wedding — daughter Kimberly and grandchildren Wyatt and Devon. 

Donations can be made to The Seeing Eye, The Guide Dog Foundation or Guiding Eyes for the Blind