Anthrax scare briefly closes ABC News office

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NEW YORK -- 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 with 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 that mentioned anthrax and a suspicious white powder. The area was sealed off, with employees still there, as police and hazardous-material specialists scoured the area and worked to determine the substance that had been sent in a letter to "Good Morning America" weatherman Sam Champion. 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. ABC News said that "Good Morning America" operations would resume Friday and continue throughout the weekend, though the area would be thoroughly cleaned even though tests for anthrax came back negative.

It was an uncomfortable reminder of the spate of anthrax attacks that hit network newsrooms and congressional offices in the weeks after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Anthrax attacks killed five among the 22 people who were affected. The 7-month-old baby of an ABC News producer developed cutaneous anthrax a day after attending with his mother a party at the West 66th Street offices of ABC News. Letters with anthrax also were sent to then "CBS Evening News" anchor Dan Rather and "NBC Nightly News" anchor Tom Brokaw; 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.
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