Memphis congressman: Deleted State of the Union tweets went to daughter

February 14, 2013


Tennessee Rep. Steve Cohen (D) is confirming a 24-year-old woman with whom he exchanged tweets on the night of the State of the Union address is, in fact, his daughter, whom he only learned about three years ago. Cohen, 63, is unmarried and has no other children.

Cohen sent -- then deleted -- tweets to a Houston woman, an aspiring model and actress -- including one that read, "Nice to know you were watchin SOTU Happy Valentines beautiful girl. Ilu."

On the Internet, "Ilu" typically stands for "I love you" or "I like you."

After the deleted messages between Cohen and the woman emerged, his spokesman claimed she was the daughter of a close family friend whom Cohen has known his whole life. The executive director of the Tennessee Republican Party then issued a statement labeling Cohen the "Anthony Weiner of the South," referring to the New York congressman who resigned after accidentally tweeting a picture of his crotch to a woman.

Cohen said this evening that, in fact, he knew the woman's mother a long time ago and had lost contact with her for many years, until he googled her a few years ago and saw she had a daughter. "I saw the date of the child’s birth and realized it was a pretty strong possibility it was my child."

He then friended the woman on Facebook -- "I didn't know much about Facebook then, just like I obviously don't know much about Twitter now." After reconnecting with the woman's mother, he has slowly built a relationship with his daughter, who has visited him several times in Washington.

"I'm very proud of her," he said in an interview. "I'm thrilled to have a relationship with her."

Cohen said he intended to send the notes as private messages but accidentally blasted them publicly.

He said he had been trying to protect his daughter's privacy before an avalanche of Internet speculation began about the tweets. "My daughter had to experience that. It’s awful. Bloggers and people saying nasty things. It's disgusting."

Rosalind Helderman is a political enterprise and investigations reporter for the Washington Post.
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