Anthrax scare briefly closes ABC News office

Fri Jun 15, 2007 10:47pm EDT

NEW YORK (Hollywood Reporter) - A portion of a sixth-floor ABC News office housing "Good Morning America" was closed down for five hours Friday afternoon after an employee found a letter containing an unidentified white powder.

A portion of a floor in the building at 147 Columbus Ave. was shut down after 1 p.m. when the unnamed employee found the letter. Addressed to "Good Morning America" weatherman Sam Champion, the letter mentioned anthrax.

The area was sealed off, with employees still there, as police and hazardous-material specialists scoured the area and worked to identify the suspicious substance that had been sent with the letter. Initial tests on the substance were negative for anthrax, and the all-clear was given to return around 6 p.m.

ABC News said police were questioning a "person of interest" in connection with the case. The news organization said that "Good Morning America" operations would resume Friday and continue throughout the weekend. Even though tests for anthrax came back negative, the area would be thoroughly cleaned.

It was an uncomfortable reminder of the spate of anthrax attacks that hit network newsrooms and congressional offices in the weeks after the September 11 terrorist attacks. Anthrax attacks killed five of the 22 people who were affected.

The 7-month-old baby of an ABC News producer developed cutaneous anthrax a day his mother brought him to a party at the West 66th Street offices of ABC News. Letters with anthrax also were sent to two network anchors at the time: Dan Rather at "CBS Evening News" and Tom Brokaw at "NBC Nightly News." Neither anchor was injured, but Brokaw's assistant and another employee were affected by the anthrax.

"NBC Nightly News" offices were evacuated and sealed off for a monthslong cleaning. No arrest has been made in the attacks.

Reuters/Hollywood Reporter

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