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

July 22, 2013

The saga of Rep. Steve Cohen — who spent three years getting to know a young woman he believed was his long-lost daughter, only to learn from DNA tests that he is not her dad — had readers wondering if this a bad rerun of “Maury”? Or a heartbreaking existential drama? (Related: Cohen on “Morning Joe” this morning) Your questions answered:


Cohen in April. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Why did he think Victoria Brink was his daughter?

Cohen (D-Tenn.) told reporters he first encountered the Texas student in 2010 when he Googled ex-girlfriend Cynthia Sinatra and found she gave birth just after they were involved. He told CNN he was surprised when the 20-something daughter accepted his Facebook “friend” request; it turned out her mother had already told her about him, he said.

What, specifically?

Cohen says that when he contacted Sinatra in 2010, she told him he was Victoria’s dad, and that she had already shared this with her daughter. What made her think that?Sinatra, a lawyer, declined comment. We don’t know when exactly she dated Cohen, but his comments suggest the timeline made sense to both of them. He says Sinatra told him her daughter resembles him, and Cohen has not cast doubt on her motives: “I think the mother sincerely believed I was the father,” he told CNN. (Public records show Sinatra’s divorce from John Brink was already final a year after Victoria was born. He’s the man who raised her as his daughter — and whom DNA results now show really is her dad.)

Sinatra — any relation?

In the ’90s, she had a long relationship and brief marriage with Frank Sinatra Jr. She was also part of a cadre of plucky U.S. defense attorneys who represented accused Bosnian war criminals at the International Criminal Tribunal.

How much time did Cohen spend with his “daughter”?

He told CNN they met six times in three years. Visitor records show Brink had a fewWhite House tours and attended a Christmas party there in 2011. “[I] tried to show her what I can of my world,” Cohen told CBS.

Why didn’t he ask for DNA tests?“

I didn’t want for her to think in any way that I was somehow questioning the relationship,” he told CBS. Maybe some wishful thinking, too?: “I didn’t have children. I was thrilled to have a daughter.”

His state of mind now?

“Crestfallen,” a source told us.

This whole long-lost daughter saga only went public after Cohen was caught tweeting at her in February. Lessons?

Stay off of social media, perhaps? There was also that odd episode about the Cyndi Lauper tweet last spring. And Cohen’s oversharing ways had followers groaning again Sunday, when he tweeted about confiding his not-the-dad drama to an African-American tow truck driver who helped him after the breakdown; the driver, he claims, told him “You’re black!” Huh. Cohen’s rep did not get back to us for comment. (Update, 8 a.m.: But he addressed it on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” today.)

Earlier: Rep. Steve Cohen’s ‘secret daughter’ is not his daughter, DNA tests show, 7/18/13

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