By Stephen M. Silverman
Updated October 15, 2001 08:26 AM

“NBC Nightly News” anchor Tom Brokaw, 61, revealed on the “Today” show Monday morning that he might have handled a piece of hate mail containing anthrax that was addressed to him. The letter has already afflicted his assistant and possibly another NBC employee. “I actually saw it (the letter), and I think I even picked it up at one point, and so I may have been exposed,” Brokaw said on the air. “I’m not sure, but I’m confident that (the anitibiotic) Cipro is going to get me through this,” he said, shaking a medicine bottle. Brokaw said his assistant was recovering physically, but that it was an emotional time for her and her family. “There is a lot of emotion in the family and I think, some anger, probably,” he said. Initially, investigators believed a letter containing white powdery material, sent from St. Petersburg, Florida, contained the bacteria. However, the source of the anthrax was later found to be letter containing a brown, granular material. More than 500 people at NBC have been tested for anthrax. The national anthrax scare began on Oct. 4, when it was confirmed that a Florida tabloid editor had contracted the inhaled form of the bacteria. He later died, the first such death in the United States since 1976. Seven other employees of American Media Inc. have tested positive for exposure and are being treated with antibiotics. None have developed the disease. A second round of blood tests for more than 300 of the company’s employees is expected this week. In Washington, Attorney General John Ashcroft said it was premature “to decide whether there is a direct link” to Osama bin Laden’s terrorist network, but “we should consider this potential that it is linked.”