The Washington Post

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.



Success! Check your inbox for details. You might also like:

Please enter a valid email address

See all newsletters

Show Comments
Most Read



Success! Check your inbox for details.

See all newsletters

Your Three. Videos curated for you.
Play Videos
Be a man and cry
Deaf banjo player teaches thousands
Sleep advice you won't find in baby books
Play Videos
Drawing as an act of defiance
A flood of refugees from Syria but only a trickle to America
Chicago's tacos, four ways
Play Videos
What you need to know about filming the police
What you need to know about trans fats
Syrian refugee: 'I’m committed to the power of music'
Play Videos
Riding the X2 with D.C.'s most famous rapper
Full disclosure: 3 bedrooms, 2 baths, 1 ghoul
Europe's migrant crisis, explained
Next Story
Elizabeth Ward · July 22, 2013

To keep reading, please enter your email address.

You’ll also receive from The Washington Post:
  • A free 6-week digital subscription
  • Our daily newsletter in your inbox

Please enter a valid email address

I have read and agree to the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.

Please indicate agreement.

Thank you.

Check your inbox. We’ve sent an email explaining how to set up an account and activate your free digital subscription.