Rep. Steve Cohen makes another splash on Twitter


Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) has made another splash on Twitter. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Oh, @RepCohen.

Naughty, naughty @RepCohen.

@RepCohen the misunderstood one. @RepCohen the cyber-messaging mastermind. @RepCohen the prankster, the victim, the scold.

@RepCohen gives complicated and confusing voice to the complicated and confusing Democratic Tennessee congressman Steve Cohen, or if you prefer Steve #Cohen. In just two months, @RepCohen has managed to play a vital role in outing #Cohen’s long-lost love child, to proclaim then un-proclaim Cyndi Lauper’s hotness and to elicit a kind of collective, “Say whaaaa?”

On Friday, #Cohen tried to explain the mysteries of his Twitter persona and, by extension, himself — the puzzling deceptions and opaque intentions of @RepCohen. But #Cohen being #Cohen, he also made the windy tale even windier.


A Tennessee congressman says his tweet about Cyndi Lauper’s hotness was a joke to spotlight Memphis music. (Virginia Mayo/AP)

#Cohen described a ruse that began when he attended the Memphis soul concert featuring Lauper on Tuesday night at the White House. The next day, #Cohen says, @RepCohen sent out a tweet that he claims he intended to delete shortly after posting: “Cyndi,Wow what a night!See you next Tuesday and Try a little tenderness again!Wow!What a special night.Thanks Steve.”

#Cohen said he expected his deletion to be picked up by the Sunlight Foundation’s Politwoops blog and for the media to go wild over what seemed to be a flirty tweet. “I knew the press would see the worst in it,” he said during a news conference in his Capitol Hill office.

His plan, he said, was that a burst of coverage would attract more attention for Memphis music. “I think I’ve got Twitter fairly well down now,” he mused beneath a framed gold album of Warren Zevon’s “A Quiet Normal Life.”

#Cohen also wanted @RepCohen to teach the media a lesson. He’s mad at the media for making a big fuss over tweets @RepCohen sent two months ago to a 24-year-old swimsuit model. The tweets called the woman “beautiful girl” and said “ilu,” which is often shorthand for “I love you.” The initial coverage tut-tutted about the single 63-year-old congressman getting saucy with a hottie less than half his age. Eventually, #Cohen disclosed that the young woman was a daughter he’d learned of three years earlier.

“I was like an ‘Absence of Malice’ victim,” #Cohen said, referring to the 1981 Paul Newman film about a businessman smeared by a leaked newspaper story.

So he decided to trick the media. And if anyone doesn’t believe him, he said it would be easy to verify. He said he gave a heads-up in advance to three people — the Democratic congressmen John Yarmuth of Kentucky and Joe Courtney of Connecticut — and a former Democratic congressman from Connecticut, Toby Moffett. “We’re going to have fun this week,” he said he told them.

But spokesmen for Yarmuth and Courtney denied #Cohen’s claim, saying their bosses didn’t know anything until after the fact. The story was looking shaky.

Finally, Moffett, now a D.C.-based consultant, came to the rescue, confirming late Friday that he’d gotten the heads-up and lending credence to #Cohen’s suggestion that others had fore(hotness)knowledge. There was no doubt about what would be done with the lifeline Moffett had thrown: @RepCohen tweeted it.

Amy Argetsinger contributed to this report.

Manuel Roig-Franzia is a writer in The Washington Post’s Style section. His long-form articles span a broad range of subjects, including politics, power and the culture of Washington, as well as profiling major political figures and authors.
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