BOCA RATON, FL: A Saturday-morning phone call set off a frenzied
week of activity at Barry R. Epstein Associates Public Relations (BEA)
after a client mailing was reported to contain anthrax.
Argentinean recipients first suspected the mailing from Ramada Plaza
Resorts contained anthrax simply because it originated in the US.
Envelopes were eventually found to have miniscule traces of an anthrax
strain that does not cause illness. Since anthrax was found only outside
the envelopes, investigators said they may have come into contact with
bacteria on their postal journey - at a sorting facility, for
Barry Epstein, president and CEO of BEA, said that when the first AP
story hit, not even the FBI, US postal inspectors, or the Centers for
Disease Control knew about the scare. Because there was not yet hard
evidence one way or another, Epstein said his first release, a response
statement, compared his client of three months to other victims of
"If the allegation is true," the release read, "we are appalled that we
are another victim, like American Media, Newsweek, the New York Post,
the three television networks, and even the Capitol, of a dastardly act
involving the post office once again."
Once the scare was explained and the media attention withered, Epstein
had praise for a local newspaper, Florida's Sun-Sentinel, which he said
did not mention the Ramada by name in order to prevent local panic.
Epstein's final release quoted FBI spokesperson Judy Orihuega calling
reports of anthrax in Plaza Resorts brochures completely false. The
release also quoted James Verillo, president of Plaza Resorts, as saying
the media haste to cover the situation was a travesty, which caused the
public to panic and a company to unduly suffer.