Cohen explains tweet about being black, paternity test

Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) said during a TV appearance Monday morning that people are misunderstanding a tweet about a man who told him he was black.

Cohen tweeted over the weekend that, after his car broke down, he talked to a man towing the car about the rough week he was having, most notably about a paternity test showing that he is not the father of the woman he thought was his daughter.

The man's response, according to Cohen's tweet: "You're Black! Yo"

After some pushback, Cohen on Monday morning suggested the tweet wasn't just about his paternity situation.

"Here's what happened: I drive an '86 Caddy. A lot of African Americans drive old cars," Cohen said on MSNBC's "Morning Joe." "Stereotype? A lot of African Americans drive old cars, Cadillacs. It died twice in two weeks."

Cohen went on to tell the man about his week, which also included telling a female reporter, ‘You’re very attractive, but I’m not talking about it." He later apologized to the reporter.

"I said, I've had a tough week, let me tell you," he said. "Find daughter, great. Find out it's not daughter, blitz. Say something nice to reporter, get attacked. I said it's just been hell. He goes: 'Man, you're black.' And I took it as a compliment."

Cohen said it's something he hears all the time in his Memphis-based district. He is one of just two white members of Congress to represent a majority-black district, and he has repeatedly withstood primary challenges from African American candidates with ease.

"I hear it in Memphis all the time," he said. "My constituents don't look at me as a white person. They say, you're one of us. They come up in the basketball line, going to the game, all the business domos in line, the wealthy boys that run the corporations, and the black guys that sell the cars come up and grab me by around the chest and pull me up and they say, 'You can't have him; he's ours.'"

Further reading:

Rep. Steve Cohen: Your questions answered about a baffling family saga

Aaron Blake covers national politics and writes regularly for The Fix.
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