July 19th, 2013
02:00 PM ET
9 years ago

Cohen: Her mother told me she was my daughter

Updated 2 p.m. ET, 7/19

(CNN) – Dismayed to learn that a DNA test proved his long-lost daughter was not actually his long-lost daughter, Rep. Steve Cohen explained Friday in an interview with CNN why he had believed he was the father for several years: He had taken the word of the mother.

The Tennessee Democrat also told CNN Chief Congressional Correspondent Dana Bash that he had taken the recent DNA test because the daughter, Victoria Brink, asked him to.

"When I took the DNA test, I did it to satisfy her needs. She said that she didn't know who her biological father was, and for mental health she needed it," he said.

Read a transcript of the interview here

CNN was present when Victoria and the man who raised her, John Brink, took the DNA test, which they initiated and paid for on their own, on May 30th. Victoria later provided CNN with a copy of the results that showed Cohen was not her biological father.

Victoria Brink gave Cohen, who had provided his own DNA for a test, the results privately.

For his part, Cohen said he felt confident before the test and was "stunned" and "floored" when he heard about the results.

The congressman's statements Friday marks the latest development in a bizarre story that started earlier this year during President Barack Obama's State of the Union address. Victoria Brink, a 23-year-old aspiring model, tweeted that she saw Cohen on television during the speech, and he responded saying: "ilu," short for "I love you." He later deleted it, as well as other messages to Brink.

After reporters raised questions about Cohen's messages to the mysterious young blonde, he revealed that Brink was his daughter, a woman he had just found out about a few years prior.

Recounting the story, the longtime bachelor said he couldn't sleep one night in 2010 and decided to Google the mother, Cynthia White Sinatra. He found a biographical website that mentioned she had a daughter who was born right around the time Cohen and Sinatra were "involved."

The congressman said he "friended" the daughter, Victoria, on Facebook.

"She friended me back. I just kind of assumed that she friended everybody, but she friended me thinking I was her father, which is a pretty bizarre thing in itself," he said, adding that the mother had previously told Victoria about Cohen.

The congressman called Brink's mother, who told him they had "a lot of catching up to do," Cohen said. After explaining that Victoria was his daughter, she told him "Every time I look at her I see your face."

Sinatra, a Texas criminal defense attorney, was once married to Frank Sinatra Jr., the son of the legendary singer. She also ran unsuccessfully against then-Rep. Ron Paul in the 2006 Republican primary.

Sinatra was not part of CNN's story on the DNA test, but says she has a good relationship with Victoria.

"I think the mother sincerely believed I was the father," Cohen said. "I don't have any question about that."

When Victoria Brink first contacted Cohen, she expressed confusion over the situation and didn't know what to think.

"So I Googled you and I researched you," Cohen told CNN, repeating what Brink had told him. "And when I saw your nose I knew it wasn't a joke."

The man who raised Victoria Brink, Houston oilman John Brink, was unaware of the situation, as the family had kept it secret until February. The only other person who knew was Frank Sinatra Jr., Cynthia's former husband.

"She told him in case Victoria would need a kidney or a liver sometime in the future," Cohen said.

After being told about Victoria Brink, Cohen brought her to Washington and the two met up six times over a period of three years. The congressman said he took her on a tour of the Capitol Dome and to the White House for a Christmas party, where he introduced her as his daughter.

But despite the time they shared, Cohen still felt like he was missing out.

"It was difficult for me because I felt like I was kind of not included. There'd be Christmas, there'd be Thanksgiving, and I couldn't go to Texas and be with them," he said. "That was very painful."

The Twitter flare-up after the State of the Union forced Victoria Brink to tell the father that raised her about the situation.

"We met up and I told my dad. We cried and he said, 'No matter what, I love you. You're my daughter'," Victoria Brink told CNN's Miguel Marquez in the story that aired Thursday.

Marquez asked John Brink how tough it was at the time to find out that the woman he helped raise was not his biological daughter.

"Honestly, the most difficult thing I've done," John Brink said.

Cohen said Friday he still hopes Victoria Brink will be a part of his life.

"I hope and plan to continue my relationship, I think of her still as my daughter. I mean, she's been that. It's hard to think not," he said, adding that he has pictures of her in his house and on his desk. He plans to keep in place.

Filed under: Congress • Steve Cohen
soundoff (45 Responses)
  1. JLS639

    Dixie and General Tso are correct. This should not be in the news. After the reason for their relationship was exposed, the story should have ended. This is not the general public's concern.

    July 19, 2013 01:05 pm at 1:05 pm |
  2. just sayin

    talk about a gullible old man.... i hope he doesn't start responding to all those letters from nigeria asking him for money.

    July 19, 2013 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
  3. HollyBB2000

    C'mon it's pretty cruel to tell the biological father that he's not the father – and then oh btw, he is the father after all. Whoopsy.

    The only thing I will agree with – is that whether he had an affair recently – and this whole ridiculous web of lies is meant to cover it up – or whether the affair was long in the past – who cares!

    People can have any private affairs they wish – and it's no business of ours.

    July 19, 2013 01:11 pm at 1:11 pm |
  4. LCD

    Pardon my cynicism, but whether it was her own idea or her mother's, do you suppose this bit of publicity was a boost to this young woman's career in any way?

    July 19, 2013 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  5. Tony

    George Zimmerman did not stand his ground. He got out of his car with a gun, then he FOLLOWED Trayvon Martin (this was what Zimmerman said on tape to the police dispatcher) and somehow got into a confrontation with Martin.

    July 19, 2013 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  6. Tony

    Sorry, I was reading more than one article and gotten the articles mixed up.

    July 19, 2013 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |
  7. Tony

    The model's mom told her daughter and Cohen that Cohen was her father. I don't blame Cohen or the model in this matter.

    July 19, 2013 01:26 pm at 1:26 pm |
  8. joe

    Because someone tells him the girls is his, all of a sudden out of nowhere he starts saying I love you? Is that his idea of parent responsibility or something?

    Just creepy and perverted.

    July 19, 2013 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  9. Matt

    So, does that mean she really IS John Brink's daughter? Or is this going to end like the South Park episode where Cartman learns who his father(s) is?

    July 19, 2013 01:29 pm at 1:29 pm |
  10. Dave

    Should have wait for the Maury results.

    July 19, 2013 01:31 pm at 1:31 pm |
  11. SalMoanella

    Pathetic. We have people leading the country that don't even know who are and aren't their own children.

    July 19, 2013 01:43 pm at 1:43 pm |
  12. dean

    Brink's comes off as a class act; Cohen and Sinatra as dirt bags. That what we are supposed to take away?

    July 19, 2013 01:44 pm at 1:44 pm |
  13. Steveo

    @The Real Tom Paine



    The story I read was that a black woman fired a warning shot at her allegedly abusive husband. The shot hit the wall and harmed no one. She was sentenced to 20 years for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. Her "stand your ground" defense failed
    That is the story I remember. My question is is SYG the problem or is it the unequal application? Lawmakers wrote it but judges, lawyers, and juries apply it.

    Huffington post (16 July13) did a story on 15 SYG acquittals. Interesting read.
    Good point. What is the evidence that this helps a self-defense arguement, or was this simply passed to appease the NRA? We already have self-defense statutes on the books, so was this ever needed? Have people been abusing this law like so many others have to avoid responsibility?
    The Real Tom Paine,
    The sad fact is any law can be abused. We have drunk driving laws, laws against robbery, murder, cheating on taxes, child abuse, and EVERY ONE of these laws are abused daily! I venture to say ACA is going to be abused too, if not already! Every law can be (and in some cases are currently being) abused as we speak!

    July 19, 2013 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
  14. brian in dc

    His own buffoonery got him caught having a relationship with a girl half his age. End of story.

    July 19, 2013 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |
  15. Hogan's Goat

    If this is really the result of him digging up an old flame on Facebook, it ought to serve as a lesson for others.

    July 19, 2013 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
  16. MomIsAHo

    So, just how many men did she sleep with back then? Seems to be confused here on just who the father really is. Maybe she can make a list and systematically check them off.

    July 19, 2013 02:17 pm at 2:17 pm |
  17. Cwhat'sNew

    I think this is such a heart-warming story that people would search for, and hope for the love and bounding they might have. The young lady should feel lucky to be loved by a few fathers.

    July 19, 2013 02:48 pm at 2:48 pm |
  18. Rudy NYC


    Anyone notice how much this young lady actually looks like Cohen? Look at her eyes and nose. Something is not right about this story.
    Nahp. I don't see it. Her head isn't thinning, greying, and balding. HIs nose is wider, where hers is more pointed. He almost has a uni-brow while her eyebrows show no sign of uni-ness. Nahp. He's not the father.

    July 19, 2013 03:20 pm at 3:20 pm |
  19. CrystalClear

    I call BS. This whole father / daughter DNA bit is just a cover up for the old man dating a girl half his age. Watch, now they will start "dating". BTW, she should be a glove model.

    July 19, 2013 03:25 pm at 3:25 pm |
  20. bluemalak

    I think it's kinda sad, he really seemed to have wanted her to be his daughter.

    July 19, 2013 04:05 pm at 4:05 pm |
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