By Anna Gustafson
The white powder in a threatening letter sent to U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner’s (D-Forest Hills) office was found to be harmless in tests conducted by the New York Police Department last week, officials said.
Weiner’s office in Kew Gardens received the angry letter last Thursday that made reference to the health care law strongly supported by the Congressman, Federal Bureau of Investigation spokesman Richard Kolko said. The FBI is investigating the content of the letter, while the NYPD conducted field tests on the white powder and determined it to be harmless. Officials did not specify the exact contents of the powder.
“My first priority is the safety of my staff and neighbors, and the authorities are currently taking steps to investigate and resolve the situation,” said Weiner, who was not in his Kew Gardens office when the letter arrived.
The New York Police Department and the FBI were investigating the incident that prompted Thursday’s evacuation of the fifth floor of the office building at 80-02 Kew Gardens Road, where Weiner’s office is located. The Queens Congressman’s office reopened Friday morning.
Nobody was hurt, but Kolko said nine individuals — five men and four women — working in Weiner’s office had to be “decontaminated” but refused medical treatment. He did not say how or if those individuals came into contact with the white powder.
The rest of the large office building that sits just off Queens Boulevard was not evacuated.
Federal officials have launched several investigations into threats and vandalism made against congressional members who voted for the health care reform that has been a priority of the Obama administration, Kolko said.
“The FBI responds to several hundred of these types of letters a year,” Kolko said. “They’re not usually harmful.”
City Council Speaker Christine Quinn denounced the threats as “vile” and “truly disturbing.”
“The root of these threats is like poisonous venom that will continue to spread unless we continue our efforts to combat hate violence and other violence,” Quinn said. “The anti-black, anti-gay and anti-Semitic language that was used in these threats was disgusting and reprehensible. When we hear threats of physical violence against anyone, a line has been crossed. Threats such as these since the vote on the health care reform bill will not be tolerated in our neighborhoods.”
At least 10 Congressional members have reported threats, including letters and angry phone messages, according to the Associated Press. U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) said vandals broke the glass door to her Tucson office, and U.S. Rep. John Boccieri (D-Ohio) has also received threats.
Numerous elected officials have denounced the threats and vandalism.
“We need to be very careful in public life that our rhetoric does not turn to incitement of violence or violence acts,” House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer told CBS. “We have disagreements, sometimes strongly held beliefs differ, but at the core is that we peacefully resolve our differences by democratic means.”
Reach reporter Anna Gustafson by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4574.