11:30 p.m.: This story has been updated
Remember how Rep. Steve Cohen got caught tweeting at a lovely young woman during the president’s State of the Union address? And then he surprised the world by revealing that she was no secret girlfriend — but his secret daughter?
Well, maybe you should sit down. New DNA tests first reported by CNN show that the 64-year-old Tennessee Democrat and the 25-year-old Texas college student are not related at all. In a shocking twist, Victoria Brink’s real father turns out to be. . . the man who raised her as his daughter from birth, Houston oilman John Brink.
In a statement, Cohen said he was “stunned and dismayed” by the outcome. But after getting to know his coulda-been daughter over the past three years, “I still love Victoria, hold dear the time I have shared with her and hope to continue to be part of her life,” he said. (Update, Friday 7/19: Why he didn’t seek DNA sooner: ‘I was thrilled to have a daughter’)
The story was odd from the beginning. Cohen — subject of something of a social-media witch hunt after the SOTU tweets he quickly deleted — announced in February that the mystery woman was his own daughter. The congressman, never married and with no children, said he had only learned of Brink’s existence a few years earlier when he Googled an old girlfriend and found she had a daughter whose age correlated to, well, their time together.
(Cohen obviously felt a little bruised by the public fuss. In April, when he was again caught pulling a tweet-and-delete — this time, a message declaring that Cyndi Lauper was “hot” — he maintained that he did so on purpose, to prank the media in an act of revenge over the earlier stories.)
The congressman declined to speak further Thursday. Victoria Brink could not be reached, and John Brink did not return our calls. Neither did his ex-wife, Victoria’s mother and Cohen’s long-ago girlfriend Cynthia Sinatra, a Texas attorney who — small world! — was later briefly married to Frank Sinatra Jr. and subsequently challenged Ron Paul unsuccessfully in the 2006 Republican congressional primary.
So it remains unclear what led Cohen to believe he was Victoria’s father, though it seems he subsequently struck up a fond familial relationship with the young woman. Apparently, though, there was no genetic evidence — until Brink and her two dads agreed to do blood tests, the results of which were shown on CNN Thursday. A spokesman for Cohen said the congressman paid for his own test.
John Brink told CNN’s Miguel Marquez he never doubted his paternity. “No! I changed her first diaper; I cut her umbilical cord. You can’t doubt that.”
Cohen, in his statement, said that it has “been a roller coaster ride these last three and a half years from which I have learned something about parenting and some more about love, life, and heartache.”
Victoria Brink, for her part, told CNN the lesson is: “Maybe do DNA tests first?”
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