What We Know About NBC Reporter Richard Engel

You know the name Richard Engel because you've watched him for years as NBC News' chief foreign correspondent. But how much do you really know about the veteran television journalist?

For instance, not many viewers are aware that Engel speaks four languages, or that he is wed to his longtime sweetheart. The 47-year-old has two children, and passionately pursues a cure for his oldest son, who was born with a very rare genetic disorder.

Engel has been kidnapped in the line of duty of telling the story, and has seen things most of us can only imagine. In August of 2021, he watched Kabul, Afghanistan falling to the Taliban (via MSNBC). About the takeover in progress he said, "I'm not surprised at all."

And perhaps no one reporting today knows the Middle East better than him.

Richard Engel's early life was characterized by a major challenge

Engel's path to success was not an easy one. As he shared about his childhood growing up in New York at a Speak Up for Children event in 2013, learning was a challenge. "Nothing worked.... I would answer test questions and then the answers on the paper wouldn't make any sense.... I could add five plus five and get Nebraska" (via the Yale Center for Dyslexia & Creativity).

One subject that did make sense to him despite his dyslexia diagnosis was foreign language — Engel would become fluent in Italian, Arabic, and Spanish, going on to major in International Relations at Stanford. From there, MSNBC reports a young Engel moved to the Middle East, going on to cover the Syrian civil war, as well as conflicts in Libya, Iraq, and Afghanistan.

In 2008, he was appointed the role of the chief foreign correspondent for NBC News.

Richard Engel's career has placed him in danger

Years later, even with a young family at home, the reporter still wants to be right in the mix, despite potential danger, explaining his goal is to "be there to see the train of history as it roars through" (via the Yale Center for Dyslexia & Creativity). He also told The Washington Post in 2006, "There is no personal life. This is what I do all the time. It's not a solitary existence like I'm riding a camel in the desert, but you just don't have any personal space."

He has most certainly paid the price for his desire to tell the story from the front row. In 2012, Engel and his news team were taken hostage in Syria (via Los Angeles Times). According to his account, during a firefight on the fifth day, the crew was released.

Richard Engel's kidnapping account was called into question

Details about exactly who kidnapped Engel and his team seemingly changed after the fact, casting uncertainty upon the incident, especially after a New York Times article pointed out inconsistencies in Engel's account of events. That said, the outlet did write, "Mr. Engel and his team underwent a harrowing ordeal, and it is a common tactic for kidnappers in war zones to intentionally mislead hostages as to their identity."

The job has also left Engel with horrible images seared into his mind. Consider what he told The Washington Post: "I've seen hundreds of dead bodies — rotting bodies, bodies buried in shallow graves. One time I watched a dog carry a severed human head in its mouth. You're smelling bodies, you're seeing people who are so angry and insanely distraught. The people who are being killed are too old, too stupid, too poor, too young or too weak, socially or otherwise, to leave."

Richard Engel is surrounded by love in his personal life

The TV correspondent married his wife Mary, a TV producer, whom he called his "longtime love" in 2015 (via Today). Engel shared the news via Twitter, saying he was "So happy." The couple was expecting their first child at the time.

Henry was born in 2016 with a genetic disorder called Rett syndrome (via NBC News). The disorder, which has no cure at this time, affects both Henry's physical and cognitive development according to People. "We have gained a lot of perspective since Henry has come along," Engel told the outlet in 2019.

This became even more true because the couple welcomed a second little boy, Theo, that year. As the newsman told People, "We know why there is this differential. And it's going to be hard to watch Theo pass his older brother in terms of capabilities. That's going to be very difficult for us to see. To see a 1-month-old very soon overcoming his almost-4-year-old brother ... that's going to be tough."

Richard Engel's highest hopes for the future have nothing to do with his career

In addition to covering foreign affairs for NBC News for close to two decades, the multilingual reporter went on to earn his own show, "On Assignment With Richard Engel," which ran on MSNBC.

He has also penned three books: "And Then All Hell Broke Loose," "War Journal," and "A Fist in the Hornet's Nest" (via Simon & Schuster). Engel's frontline work has also seen the TV journalist receiving several accolades, including two Peabody Awards (via MSNBC).

The success Engel has achieved in his career aside, he has opened up about his hopes for Henry's future, writing in a 2018 essay for Today about his dream for his son, "This amazing, one-of-a-kind child allows a team of dedicated scientists to find a cure for him and millions of other children. Henry fixes himself and spreads happiness. I wish for this more than anything in the world." He added, "So maybe this story — Henry's story, our story — becomes the greatest news story I've ever told."