Oct. 9, 2001 -- In a story that seems ripped from its own outrageous tabloid headlines, The National Enquirer has closed its Boca Raton, Fla., headquarters Monday after health department officials detected the anthrax bacterium on its premises.
Last week, 63-year-old Robert Stevens, a photo editor for the company, died from anthrax. Officials thought it to be an isolated case, but then began testing Stevens' family and associates. This weekend, a co-worker of Stevens tested positive for exposure to the extremely rare, yet potentially deadly disease. Immediately following the second case, staffers were told to stay out of the building until further notice. According to Entertainment Tonight, the tabloid's employees are undergoing nasal passage testing Monday at a local clinic. "Obviously, our first concern is the health and well-being of our employees and their families," said Michael Kahane, Vice President and General Counsel of American Media Inc., which publishes The National Enquirer and other supermarket tabloids, told ET.
FBI is Investigating
While officials stress there is no indication the discovery of anthrax in South Florida is linked to any terrorist activity, the FBI has assumed the lead in the investigation, with the cooperation of law enforcement, local and state health workers, and Center for Disease Control officials, according to ABCNEWS.com.
"It is a source of concern, and that is why the FBI is investigating," White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said Monday.
Attorney General John Ashcroft emphasized there is no evidence of criminal activity, adding it's too soon to know whether this case will be classified as a criminal investigation. The closed offices are also home to sister tabloids The Star, The Globe, National Examiner, and The Sun. The papers have mostly abandoned their celebrity coverage to focus on the recent terrorist attacks and the military action against Osama Bin Laden, with headlines like "Inside the Taliban" and "I Dated a Terrorist!"
ABCNEWS.com contributed to this story.