U.S. Representative Steve Cohen (D-Tenn) confirms to FOX13 News that the woman he was tweeting with during Tuesday's State of the Union Address is in fact his daughter.
According Congressman Cohen, that is why he was tweeting her.
Rep. Cohen, who represents District 9 which encompasses Memphis and Shelby County, said he did not know about 24-year-old Victoria Brink until about three years ago.
Rep. Cohen told FOX13 News by phone Thursday evening the whole ordeal has been exhausting and that he didn't want to announce to the world he was a father this way. He also blames the Internet media, especially blogs, for this entire mess.
"I very much love my daughter and I saw her go through some emotional difficulties with the tweets and comments made against her and the fact that I couldn't say anything," the congressman told FOX13 News.
Brink's mother is Texas criminal defense lawyer Cynthia White Sinatra. Sinatra was married to Frank Sinatra, Jr. from 1998 until 2000. Cohen says he and Cynthia Sinatra had a long-standing friendly relationship. In fact, Brink and Sinatra recently were guests of Cohen at the anniversary celebration of STAX in Memphis.
While the congressman was tweeting play-by-play on his Congressional Twitter account Tuesday evening from the House of Representatives during President Barack Obama's State of the Union Address, he also sent a few tweets to Brink.
Cohen's communications director, Michael Pagan, initially told FOX13 News on Wednesday there was nothing to this story. Pagan said Brink, an aspiring model who attended Texas State University, is a long time family friend.
"She is the daughter of a long time family friend," Pagan said. "They are like family. They've known each other for quite some time."
Several of the tweets Tuesday night and Wednesday morning between Rep. Cohen and Brink were deleted, but they were recovered by the Sunlight Foundation, a Washington D.C.-based watchdog group that tracks deleted tweets by politicians.
A few of the deleted tweets the congressman posted briefly on Twitter directed toward Brink said that he was pleased that she was watching the State of the Union after seeing him on television. He also wished Brink a Happy Valentine's Day, and said he loved her.
Republicans across Tennessee and the country on Wednesday pounced on Rep. Cohen for the personal tweets that were posted on his Congressional Twitter account.
Brent Leatherwood, the executive director of Tennessee Republican Party, sent a statement on Wednesday claiming Rep. Cohen as "The Weiner of The South," a reference to New York Congressman Anthony Weiner in 2011, the married congressman who sent inappropriate pictures to women on Twitter.
"It is very disappointing that Rep. Cohen would use his official Congressional Twitter account, which taxpaying constituents rely on for news and updates from their congressman, to send personal and unnecessarily revealing messages to college co-eds. Apparently, we have our own Weiner of the South," Leatherwood said in a statement.
"It is obvious that Representative Cohen understands his actions and messages were inappropriate and should not have been sent through his official Congressional Twitter account, or else he would have never deleted them in the first place.
"You would think that after Rep. Weiner, was forced to resign due to his inappropriate behavior and use of his official Congressional Twitter account, that members of Congress would hold themselves to a higher standard of conduct."
A day after the GOP attacked Rep. Cohen and his daughter through social media, FOX13 News asked Leatherwood and the Tennessee Republican Party is they still stand behind their statement.
"Yesterday, news outlets raised legitimate questions about how Congressman Steve Cohen was using his official Congressional Twitter account," Leatherwood said in an e-mail to FOX13 news. "While it's unfortunate Congressman Cohen used a public vehicle for a private matter, whether intentional or not, it is good that he addressed the issue and we can all move on.
"From the explanation given by Congressman Cohen yesterday, his activities showed a potential misuse of his official Twitter account. Like you, we believe there is nothing wrong with asking questions and holding our Representatives accountable for their actions."
FOX13 News reporters Matt Gerien and Greg Coy contributed to this report.
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