WASHINGTON — First, it was a family friend. Now, it's his daughter.
Sitting a stone's throw away from President Barack Obama during the State of the Union, U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Tenn., tweeted and quickly deleted messages to a young woman named Victoria Brink.
Archived by The Sunlight Foundation, one Cohen tweet called Brink a "beautiful girl" and another said "ilu," meaning "I love you." In a previous interaction, the congressman encouraged Brink to "give me a good time" in an upcoming phone call.
All the tweets were sent from the Memphis Democrat's congressional Twitter account.
Cohen is a 63-year-old bachelor. Brink is a 24-year-old aspiring model, according to an online profile.
Contacted Wednesday by several national news outlets, Cohen's office said the woman was the daughter of a longtime friend.
"They're pretty much like family," spokesman Michael Pagan told New York Magazine. "He's known her pretty much her whole life. He has a longtime girlfriend in Memphis."
But the story changed Thursday, when NBC News reported an exclusive interview with Cohen. The four-term congressman said Brink is his daughter, adding that he found out about her three years ago.
"I Googled her mother, found out she had a child and the math looked pretty accurate," Cohen told NBC News. "The mom told me we had a lot of catching up to do."
Also Thursday, Cohen said he went with his original story to protect Brink's privacy. Until this week, neither had publicly disclosed the relationship.
"What's going on is that Victoria was able to talk to the gentleman who thought he was her father for these years and tell him what she has known for four years and I've known for three -- that I was her father," Cohen told the Commercial Appeal in Memphis.
Chris Carroll covers federal politics for the Times Free Press. A Chattanooga native, he went to Red Bank High School and graduated with honors from East Tennessee State University. Chris investigated violent crime, municipal government and hospitals before taking the political beat. For tornado coverage, he and Pam Sohn won a first-place Tennessee Associated Press Managing Editors deadline reporting award. In 2010, Chris won the Golden Press Card Award of Merit and another deadline reporting ...