First she was his daughter that he had only learned of "three years prior" – then the DNA tests showed that she was not. What does a text message with the acronym "ilu" – for "I love you" – mean now for the public perception of Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.)?
During President Obama's State of the Union address, Cohen, who is 64 years old and a bachelor, tweeted at 24-year-old aspiring swimsuit model Victoria Brink, "pleased u r watching. ilu." The tweet was not meant to be public, and he deleted it after three minutes, according to the nonpartisan, technology-oriented congressional watchdog group The Sunlight Foundation, which has created an automated tweet-grabber for politicians called "Politwoops." Perhaps to defend the potential creepiness of their tool, the Sunlight Foundation claimed the tweet was not captured.
Cohen explained that he had discovered Victoria through a Google search on a woman he was once involved with, which revealed that she had given birth to a daughter within a realistic time-frame from that of their involvement. They developed some sort of relationship, and Cohen even took Victoria to a White House Christmas party. However, John Brink, the man who had raised her from birth, had never had any doubt that Cohen was not her father. "I changed her first diaper. I cut her umbilical cord. No, I couldn't doubt that," he told CNN's Miguel Marquez.
As the situation entered the short-term public memory, CNN seized upon it as a potential scandal and ordered a DNA test for Rep. Cohen, Victoria Brink, and John Brink. The results, revealed today, found that Brink — who had been married to Victoria's mother from 1985 to 1989 — had indeed been her biological father all along.
"I still love Victoria, hold dear the time I have shared with her, and hope to continue to be a part of her life," Cohen said in a statement. "It's been a roller-coaster ride these last three and a half years, from which I have learned something about parenting and some more about love, life and heartache."
But does furtively sending messages with an abbreviated version of "I love you" really count as parenting? How does one "parent" a 24-year-old? There is no hard proof of an affair between Victoria Brink and Rep. Cohen, but it still remains to be answered whether Cohen lied, or was truly mistaken about his paternity. CNN seems to find the situation innocuous, and let's just hope it is – with many Southern states swinging so sharply to the right politically, liberal Democrats like Cohen keep Tennessee's Congressional delegation balanced and reasonable. It would be a shame to bring such an end to his career.