The twists and turns of Rep. Steve Cohen's paternity suit drama

It's a story that would strain credulity on daytime TV

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) is having what you might generously call family problems.

Last week, the Tennessee Democrat found out through a paternity test that the woman he believed was his long-lost daughter wasn't his daughter after all.

"I felt confident that it was for sure that it would come out that I was the father," he told CNN. "When I found out I wasn't, I was floored."

Subscribe to The Week

Escape your echo chamber. Get the facts behind the news, plus analysis from multiple perspectives.


Sign up for The Week's Free Newsletters

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

Sign up

The story begins in February of this year. During President Obama's State of the Union, Cohen tweeted at an attractive blonde woman, model Victoria Brink: "nice to know you were watching SOTU(state of the union). Happy Valentines beautiful girl. ilu [I love you]"

The unmarried Cohen quickly deleted the tweet, which seemed to indicate he had accidentally revealed a secret, ongoing relationship with the much younger Brink. And in fact he had done just that, though the relationship was nothing like the louche ones that have felled Eliot Spitzer and his ilk.

Cohen revealed to reporters after that incident that Brink was his long-lost biological daughter whom he had discovered only three years earlier. As Cohen explained, he found out that an old flame of his had a daughter, and, after some Googling, came to believe he was the father. He said that he approached Brink with his theory, and that she said it seemed to make sense. Cohen then never sought a paternity test on his own, he said, because he didn't want Brink to think he ever doubted their relationship.

Yet while working on a story about Cohen and Brink, CNN conducted a routine paternity test that determined the man who raised Brink, Texas businessman John Brink, was really the father all along. Cohen called that revelation a "personal tragedy," but said he still cared about Brink and would continue to communicate with her.

Cohen has since made a couple of puzzling comments about the incident. Last week, he declined to answer a female reporter's questions, telling her, "You're very attractive, but I'm not talking about it." Then Sunday, he had this to say about the paternity test and race:

See more

On Monday, Cohen defended that tweet, saying it wasn't just about the paternity test, but also about his car, a 1986 Cadillac. ("A lot of African Americans drive old cars.") Plus, he added, the man had intended the remark as a compliment.

"I hear it in Memphis all the time. My constituents don't look at me as a white person, they say you're one of us. They come up in the basketball line going to the game. All the business guys in line, the wealthy guys that own the corporation. The black guys that sell the cars grab me around the chest and pull me up and say, 'You can't have him, he's ours.'" [MSNBC]

Sounds like Cohen may have some bigger problems on his hands than the loss of a non-existent daughter.

Continue reading for free

We hope you're enjoying The Week's refreshingly open-minded journalism.

Subscribed to The Week? Register your account with the same email as your subscription.

Jon Terbush

Jon Terbush is an associate editor at covering politics, sports, and other things he finds interesting. He has previously written for Talking Points Memo, Raw Story, and Business Insider.