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CNN AMERICAN MORNING WITH PAULA ZAHN

Gore Powder Thought to be Hoax

Aired August 28, 2002 - 07:01   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: We start with another anthrax scare. Anthrax test results are due back today on a suspicious material mailed to former Vice President Al Gore. His national offices were closed, after a worker found white powder in an envelope. Investigators believe that mailing was a hoax.
And, in fact, our Gary Tuchman is on the scene there in Nashville, and can tell us more.

Gary -- good morning.

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Daryn, good morning to you.

First things first. The FBI here in Tennessee does believe this is a hoax. One of the main reasons they believe that is because this letter came from a prison. Which prison, they're not saying yet, but that's an important indictor.

Nevertheless, test results indicating that this is a hoax are not expected until later today, at the earliest.

And it was a very scary incident for the two people who work for the former Vice President of the United States in this building behind me, the Loews Vanderbilt Office Plaza, which is connected to a hotel.

Right now, the office building itself and the hotel, have not been evacuated, but the 7th floor, where Al Gore's people work, has been quarantined until the test results come.

Now, this all happened around noon yesterday. His office manager, Mary Patterson, was opening mail. One of the letters, very small, said, "Al Gore" on the front. She opened it up, and white powder spilled out.

She immediately yelled to the office director, Robert McLarty. McLarty told her to wash her hands. He turned off the air conditioning, the vents inside the office building, called the Hazardous Materials officials, who came out here immediately. They took powder for samples. They also took her clothes to test them, and at this point, the tests are taking place.

The former vice president of the United States and his wife, Tipper, are on vacation right now in California.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) KIM LAWSON, NASHVILLE FIRE DEPARTMENT: It was a suspicious letter with powder. We have taken the precautions, just as we have each and every call. We have isolated the threat. There was one person that was exposed to the item. We have had her wash her hands, change her clothes, blow her nose -- all of the things that we have been assuring safety for. At this time, the threat has been isolated.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TUCHMAN: Now, the back of this letter said, "This letter has not been inspected by the Corrections Department." Initially, the Corrections Department said it doesn't put that on letters from prisons. However, it appears that the interpretation of the exact wording wasn't communicated properly, so now they do think it came from a prison.

Also, there was a letter inside. We are told by a member of the Health Department here in Tennessee that the letter said, in part, "I hope you enjoy this."

Daryn -- back to you.

KAGAN: Not too enjoyable, more like a scary afternoon there in Nashville.

Gary Tuchman, Nashville, Tennessee, thank you so much.

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