It only took seconds for the best kept secret in Memphis, 9th District U.S. Representative Steve Cohen's life to suddenly become the fodder for innuendo, criticism and nationwide scrutiny.
Yet, forced to reveal a truth he only discovered himself three years ago, it didn't take long at all for Congressman Cohen (D-Tenn.) to publicly fully embrace his status as the biological father of 24-year-old model Victoria Brink of Texas.
"To know she was watching and that she's proud and getting turned on to my world was a great thing," Rep. Cohen told FOX13 News from Washington, D.C. "I was so happy to tweet her and say I'm pleased you're watching and I love you."
Some questions still abound concerning the particulars of Re. Cohen's former relationship with Brink's mother, Texas criminal defense attorney Cynthia White Sinatra.
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"I actually sort of admired that he clearly has grasp on to the idea that I am a parent now," said Dr. Jim Whelan, University of Memphis psychologist. "Part of it was the very clear picture, I want to be a parent."
since Sinatra has yet to be forthcoming about her past with Rep. Cohen, Dr. Whelan says the congressman's first responsibility lies in cementing the bond between himself and Brink, who since graduating from Texas State University has found success as a swimwear model.
"It's a wonderful thing, but at the time I was just amazed," Rep. Cohen said Friday on CNN. "I was just happy and I contacted the mother. I contacted Victoria first by letter. Later we were able to meet in Houston and have an opportunity to first meet each other. Then we have met on several other occasions and more and more time we have spent time together. Hopefully now we have reached this point where we can spend a considerable time for the rest of my life."
"It was nice to see her but it was pretty strange. She's an adult and when you meet people as adults as your child it's a wonderful moment I will never forget."
Brink and Congressman Cohen have made joint public appearances in Washington, D.C., Houston, and Memphis. She was last seen in Memphis with the congressman when he attended the 10th Anniversary of Stax news conference in January. He did not formally introduce her as his daughter then. But, with family entanglements about their relationship now being worked on, Rep. Cohen says the two can be seen together more often.
"It'll be nice not to have it be public," he said. "Hopefully I'm sure it will allow us to be closer together at future events where I'll be able to be there with her, where before I might not have been able to be there."
"I really have a hope for them that as the two of them define a relationship as an adult child and a father, which is something neither one of them had before," Dr. Whelan said. "That they can approach this in a matter that's healthy, productive and has longevity.