Salinger, who had been in declining health for four years, died in a hospital near his home in Le Thor, France, according to a longtime associate, Elizabeth Bagley.
Bagley, an ambassador to Portugal under President Bill Clinton, said she learned of Salinger's Saturday death from his wife, Nicole, the New York Times reported Sunday.
Salinger, a native of San Francisco, worked for the San Francisco Chronicle and as a contributing editor for Collier's magazine. In 1956, he worked for Robert F. Kennedy, who was investigating organized crime. Salinger then became press secretary to then Sen. John F. Kennedy and continued to work for him during his 1960 presidential campaign and when he took office.
After spending a short time in the Lyndon Johnson White House following Kennedy's assassination, Salinger ran for the U.S. Senate in California, but after winning the primary, lost to Republican George Murphy.
He moved to France and returned to journalism, becoming a correspondent for L'Express, the French magazine. He later became the Paris bureau chief for ABC News.