Marino de Medici, dean of foreign correspondents in Washington, dies at 89

Marino de Medici, an Italian journalist who reported from Washington for more than a quarter century, became dean of the foreign press and distinguished himself as a blind observer of American politics, died on 15 November at his home in Winchester, Virginia. He was 89 years old.

The cause was cancer, said his wife, Nicki Furlan de Medici.

Mr. de Medici arrived in the United States in 1954 as a university student under the Fulbright Scholars program, an initiative championed by U.S. Senator J. William Fulbright (D-Ark.) in the aftermath of World War II to promote international understanding.

Mr. de’ Medici then spent most of his career as an interpreter of American life for Italian readers, primarily as a Washington-based foreign correspondent for Il Tempo, a center-right newspaper headquartered in Rome. . He covered presidents from John F. Kennedy to Ronald Reagan, the successes of the American democratic tradition and its stains.

“The role of a foreign correspondent,” de’ Medici told the National Journal in 1985, “is not just to report the news directly, but to clarify, analyze and explain what is happening to United States and to interpret its meaning and meaning for his country and the rest of the world, he becomes a player in a sophisticated game and influences politics.

When he retired, the New York Times reportedMr. de’ Medici had covered from Washington longer than any other member of the city’s foreign press, which at the time included 500 accredited reporters from 60 countries.

He covered the civil rights movement, traveled to Southeast Asia to report on the Vietnam War, and chronicled the Watergate scandal for an Italian readership more familiar than Americans with government instability. .

As revelations of the scandal pushed President Richard M. Nixon toward resignation, “I had a hard time explaining to the Italians,” Mr. de’ Medici told The Times, “that this was not a political maneuver to take control of the White House but a moral, constitutional and judicial matter where the end result was not dictated by politics but by the full force of law”.

Mr. de’ Medici made occasional detours from his assignment in Washington to cover world affairs, including coups in Latin America. But he seemed most at home in the US capital, where he lived for years and dropped off his dispatches from the National Press Building.

One of the advantages of being a foreign correspondent was the remoteness of its editor. “If you’re lazy,” he joked, “you can just rewrite The Washington Post and nobody will notice.” But M. de’ Medici was proud of his role not only as a scribe but also as an analyst of democracy.

“I love American politics – the interaction of politics with public opinion,” he told The Times. “In the final analysis, it’s public opinion that decides, and that’s uniquely American.”

Marino Romano Pietro Lorenzo Celso de Medici was born in Rome on May 16, 1933. He claimed no connection to the Florentine dynasty whose name he shared, although he once managed to sell property in the United States by se pretending to be Medici. prince. Many Italians perceive Americans as ignorant of history, a reputation that M. de’ Medici’s estate agents confirmed when they called him “de Medicini”.

M. de’ Medici’s father was a non-commissioned officer in the Italian navy and his mother was a housewife. During the Second World War, M. de Medici lived for a time with an aunt and uncle in Rome before fleeing the deprivations of the city to join his parents in Romagna, not far from the German defensive positions known as the Gothic line.

He was 11 years old, he wrote in a memento of the war, when he experienced an event which he said remained etched in his memory “like a huge boulder”.

“I cycled happily with my books in my backpack, having a good time on an old bicycle that I had borrowed from the owner of the farm,” he wrote. “Suddenly I heard a roar behind my back that made me stop and look behind me. And then I saw it, a black plane spewing sparks from its wings. Those sparks were bullets raining down on the road. It was an American plane.

Mr. de’ Medici was working for the Roman newspaper Il Messaggero when he received his Fulbright scholarship to study in the United States. He received a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Washington in 1955 and a master’s degree, also in journalism, from the University of California at Berkeley in 1963.

After completing his undergraduate degree, de’ Medici returned to Italy and began working for ANSA, the country’s main news agency, which sent him back to the United States to open an office in Washington in 1960. Four years later, he became a Washington correspondent. for Il Tempo.

At first, he recalls, he didn’t fit in with American journalists, with their salty manners and slovenly outfits. “I was a young green reporter who arrived in a country which, for me, was a great cathedral of journalism”, he said. told The Times. “I was wearing cologne and a gold chain and they thought I was very strange.”

Mr. de Medici retired from Il Tempo in 1987. He then returned to Rome to serve as director of communications for the International Fund for Agricultural Development, a United Nations agency. In 1998, he moved to Winchester, where he taught at Shenandoah University. He continued to write for Italian publications and the Northern Virginia Daily.

M. de’ Medici’s marriage to Marianne Bengtson ended in divorce.

Survivors include his 38-year-old wife, the former Nicki Furlan, and their two daughters, Laura de Medici and Marina de Medici, all of Winchester; and three grandchildren.

M. de’ Medici was the author of the book “SCRIBE: 30 years as a foreign correspondent in Americaas well as a book in Italian about Donald Trump and the risks that Mr. de’ Medici believed the former president posed to democracy.

After years of offering Italians an insider’s view of Washington, he offered Americans an outsider’s understanding of their country, one that had become his own as well.

The United States is “becoming less and less the democracy I knew, admired and wanted to live” when he arrived here, he told the Northern Virginia Daily in 2020.

But in past “crises of history,” America “has always emerged … and become stronger than before,” he added. “It’s going to have that again, I’m sure.” But we must close this abominable chapter of the worst presidency in the history of the United States. And who can say that with more confidence than a foreigner who knows this country very well?

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