Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Tennessee, spoke Friday with CNN Chief Congressional Correspondent Dana Bash. Here’s a transcript of the interview.
Bash: How did it feel Congressman when you found out that the woman you thought was your daughter is really not?
Cohen: I was totally stunned. When I took the DNA tests I did it to satisfy her needs. She said that she didn’t know who her biological father was and for her mental health she needed it. I had avoided it but I would do anything for her and I told her mother, there were certain things her mother wanted me to do, and I told her I would not do that unless Victoria wanted it and I would do anything for her. But I thought it was just perfunctory. I felt confident, that it was for sure that I would come out that I was the father.
When I found out I wasn’t I was floored.
Bash: Why were you so confident that you were the father?
Cohen: Because the mother had told me when I called her in 2010 that every time she looked in her face she saw me and that she had told Victoria a year earlier that I was her father and she wanted her to know that her father was a Congressman and she told me that the only other person that she told was Frank junior. And she told him in case Victoria would need a kidney or a liver sometime in the future.
Bash: Frank junior is..?
Cohen: Frank Sinatra junior, who is Cynthia’s ex-husband – last ex-husband.
Bash: This all obviously was not meant to be public. It was because you sent a tweet during the State of the Union. You are professing your love for her and people are wondering who it was and you said `wait a minute, it’s my daughter.’ Talk about what this has been like for this to be in the public arena.
Cohen: It is not comfortable. I mean it is a personal issue. I would have liked to have maintained it personal. She wanted to keep it personal for all this time because her mother swore her apparently not to tell the man who turns out to be her biological father. I think the mother sincerely believed that I was the father. I have no question about that. So it was difficult for me because I always felt like I was, you know, kind of not included. There would be Christmas, there would be Thanksgiving and I couldn’t go to Texas and be with them and that was very painful. There was a lot of pain during the three years because I wanted – we got together around six times but it always a little difficult and it was awkward to know that I couldn’t be included in certain things. But she called me on New Year’s, my birthday and gifts so we were developing a relationship.
Bash: Now that you know you are not her father what’s your relationship?
Cohen: Well we still communicate. I still care about her greatly and I think she cares about me and I hope and plan to continue to have a relationship. I think of her still as my daughter. I mean she has been that. It is hard to think not. I haven’t taken her pictures that are in my house or in my office or gifts that she has given me which I have got in special places on my desk or in my home. I haven’t moved those and don’t plan to. She still – a picture of the two of us together at the zoo in Houston on my phone. You know…
Bash: You never had children aside from – when you found out about her you thought she was your daughter, it was your first chance at fatherhood.
Cohen: I had lots of chances at fatherhood. I have had a couple of girlfriends who have had children. They were like my stepchildren and I still maintain relationships with them.
Bash: How did you initially think that she was your daughter? Did you get a phone call from the mom?
Cohen: No I had thought about the mother. I had been in Houston, we had a committee meeting there, a subcommittee meeting. When I came back my chief of staff knew that I had a fondness for Cynthia and she asked me if I had called her while I was in Houston and I hadn’t. I said why do you ask and she said `well, I knew that you always liked her.’ And so I had and I thought about it and I googled her to see where to kind of see where she was. I couldn’t sleep one night and I googled her and it came out that she had a bio written up on her web page and is said she had a daughter Victoria. So I Facebook searched her daughter and it turns out she had this daughter born on the 22nd of April in ’88 and that was kind of when we were together. I friended her and she friended me back and I just kind of assumed that she friended everybody but she friended me thinking I was her father which was kind of bizarre in itself.
Bash: Why did she think that?
Cohen: Because she told her I was her father. So I got her picture and showed it to my staff and my staff has known me for a long time and my staff member said `she looks like your daughter.’ So I called the mother and left her a message and she just said we have a lot of catching up to do. And she said I have three – I am a grandmother. I said I imagine that is your oldest daughter and she said yes and I said your youngest is absolutely gorgeous and she said `yes and every time I look at her I see your face.’ So that is what it was and I wrote Victoria a letter and she wrote me back and she said `this is very difficult for me. All my life I thought somebody else was my father and then about a year ago my mother took me on a ride and told me this. I didn’t know what to think so I googled you and researched you and when I saw your nose I knew it wasn’t a joke. I don’t know why my mother waited so long to tell either of us but I hope sometime we could have dinner and meet. That was the beginning.
Bash: have you had any kind of contact with her father, with the man who we now know is her biological father?
Bash: Do you have any kind of relationship with him?
Cohen: Obviously not. I have never had any contact with him
Bash: I meant now.
Bash: Is there any concern now about the fact that she has had these three tumultuous years going from thinking one man is her father to another and then back to him about just kind of the emotional roller coaster she has been going on?
Cohen: We have both been on a roller coaster and I understand that. She seems to be – I know she has had some issues but she seems to have done well with it and I would like to think that the experience she has had getting to know me has been good for her. Going to the White House which she and I did – Cynthia didn’t go to the White House – was a grand evening for both of us.
Bash: What was the occasion?
Cohen: It was the Christmas party and I was proud to have her there and introduced her as my daughter. Had her here, went to the dome, I had a little trouble with getting up to the dome but I did it for her. I saved that and did a dome tour and we had some other times together. I think they have been good for her.