By: Adrian Sainz, Associated Press Writer
(AP) The latest edition of The National Enquirer came out Thursday with a “world exclusive”: “Bio-terrorism: The Florida anthrax attack on Enquirer headquarters.” There is also a front-page disclaimer: “This paper not printed in the state of Florida.”
While investigators in moon suits scoured the American Media Inc. headquarters in Boca Raton for signs of anthrax, reporters and editors at the Enquirer and its five sister tabloids assembled in temporary newsrooms in nearby Delray Beach and Miami to put out the editions.
The disclamer at the top of the Enquirer‘s cover was meant to allay readers’ fears that the anthrax spores found in the company’s offices could somehow have made their way onto newsstand copies. “There was concern expressed … and AMI has gone out of its way to make sure there’s no concern,” said Gerald McKelvey, a company spokesman.
Four of the six tabloids out Thursday had stories on anthrax, which claimed the life of Sun photo editor Bob Stevens, 63.
The Enquirer story touts Stevens as “The man who saved America,” since his death Oct. 5 alerted authorities to the anthrax danger. And it labeled its coverage as “From the people who lived through the nightmare. Their stories can save your life.”
The Star interview with his widow, Maureen Stevens, included photos of Stevens cooking in his Lantana home, dancing with his daughter, and dressing up as a clown on Halloween. The front page headline read: “MY HERO: Anthrax victim’s widow: Her moving story. ‘Our last days together were filled with love.'”
The Globe had a two-column story written by Joe Mullins, a close friend of Stevens, which chronicled a fishing trip they had taken. However, the Sun, where Stevens himself worked, ran only a short, one-column tribute to the often-smiling Briton.
In addition to Stevens, a second AMI employee, Ernesto Blanco, 73, contracted the inhaled form of anthrax and remains hospitalized. A third was confirmed to have been exposed to anthrax, and five others from among hundreds tested were classified as possibly exposed.
The Enquirer included a story about one of five possibly exposed employees, reporter David Wright, and a piece on the investigation into how the bacterium got into the company’s mailroom.
An Enquirer senior reporter, Reginald Fitz, said the tabloid wrote the stories “as objectively as we could” considering the staff’s firsthand experience with the anthrax issue.
The Globe featured NBC news anchor Tom Brokaw, whose personal assistant got the less serious skin anthrax infection by opening a letter sent to NBC’s New York headquarters. “Tom Brokaw’s Agony: The Real Story Behind Germ Attacks,” the front-page headline read.
While anthrax was the main topic of four of AMI’s papers, the National Examiner and Weekly World News stayed away from the topic.
The typically sensational Weekly World News stayed true to form with this headline: “Bigfoot kept lumberjack as love slave.”