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. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA -aka- Take Back The House -aka- No Redemption Votes

    Rep.Cohen, just shut up!!! There's no damage control for this kind of crap unless you've got a good PR person which you apparently do not. Just fess up and admit what you were up to in the Twittersphere. Geesh!

    July 19, 2013 08:52 am at 8:52 am |
  2. Dixie

    this should be private. No one should be involved but the people who are. It's a nonstory!

    July 19, 2013 09:05 am at 9:05 am |
  3. Bob Pitt

    He is a good man...

    July 19, 2013 09:08 am at 9:08 am |
  4. Rudy NYC

    "Asked at the time how he found out about his daughter, the longtime bachelor said he was thinking about her mother one day."
    Why is the decades old history of the love life of a "longtime bachelor" news? Will the Incredibles demand that he resign?

    July 19, 2013 09:09 am at 9:09 am |
  5. George C.

    I sympathize with Mr. Cohen. Several years ago, I believed that a young lady was my daughter from a short-lived relationship. I won't get into specifics, and I'm not going to badmouth her mother. I thought she was because we looked a lot alike and had the same hair and eye color, but she wanted We became friends, but there was some doubt on all sides about me being her father. We took a DNA test, and it turns out I wasn't her father. Heartbreaking. We're friends and I'd be proud if she was my daughter.

    July 19, 2013 09:16 am at 9:16 am |
  6. FredFunk

    Let's be real. He was trying to get some puddy and fabricated this story when he got caught

    July 19, 2013 09:45 am at 9:45 am |
  7. Steveo

    @Dutch/Bad Newz, VA -aka- Take Back The House -aka- No Redemption Votes

    Rep.Cohen, just shut up!!! There's no damage control for this kind of crap unless you've got a good PR person which you apparently do not. Just fess up and admit what you were up to in the Twittersphere. Geesh!
    Poor comment Dutch! You have NO idea what this guy was/is feeling. Perhaps reality (trash) television has dulled our senses and whatever humanity we have left!

    @Rudy, This should not be news but since he is a politician.... Why in the world should ANYBODY demand a resignation, unless you are trying to stir something up.

    July 19, 2013 09:46 am at 9:46 am |
  8. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA -aka- Take Back The House -aka- No Redemption Votes

    Poor comment Dutch! You have NO idea what this guy was/is feeling. Perhaps reality (trash) television has dulled our senses and whatever humanity we have left!
    Well, after the Weiner scandal, I don't know what to think. Sorry to disappoint SteveO.

    July 19, 2013 09:54 am at 9:54 am |
  9. what a cluster

    lot of difficult feelings in this one I'll bet.

    July 19, 2013 10:13 am at 10:13 am |
  10. Rick McDaniel

    The women who sleep around, have no idea who the father of the child is.

    July 19, 2013 10:21 am at 10:21 am |
  11. Fran

    Slow news day America??

    July 19, 2013 10:36 am at 10:36 am |
  12. Choconet

    This sounds like something for the Maury Show! He'd find the real daddy or at least line up a string of guys and test them all! The mom sounds like a mess!!! All the deception for so many years and now she doesn't want to be involved in solving the mystery of her daughter’s paternity. She just doesn't want all her past indiscretions to be aired in public and boy does it sound like a lot!

    July 19, 2013 10:49 am at 10:49 am |
  13. Choconet

    Mama's baby, daddy's...maybe! Not even the man whose name she has is her biological pop!

    July 19, 2013 10:55 am at 10:55 am |
  14. general tso

    Non-news. Leave the man alone. CNN trying to stir up partisan BS.....

    July 19, 2013 10:58 am at 10:58 am |
  15. Chris

    On the plus side, it's no longer weird if they take the relationship to the next level.

    July 19, 2013 11:03 am at 11:03 am |
  16. S.B. Stein

    This is awkward to say the least.

    July 19, 2013 11:04 am at 11:04 am |
  17. bergerfry

    Maury would have paid big bucks for this one.

    July 19, 2013 11:21 am at 11:21 am |
  18. Mike from CO

    "FredFunk: Let's be real. He was trying to get some puddy and fabricated this story when he got caught"

    You're a disgusting human being. Our country has ceased to function because we expect nothing but the worst from people and institutions that govern.

    July 19, 2013 11:22 am at 11:22 am |
  19. Steveo

    @Rudy NYC

    "You answered 1 of 3 questions and based upon other posters you got that one wrong!"
    You have got to be as crazy as your idol, Rand Paul. Keep waiting for answers okay. Have a nice day.
    1. Let's file your personal attack under DEFLICTION. As I do not have idols! I am a Christian!
    2. I will have a nice day, thanks and I wish the same for you!
    3. Don't think I am awaiting your answer. I already researched the answer Huff Po (16 July 13) concerning 5 SYG acquittals.

    July 19, 2013 11:23 am at 11:23 am |
  20. Sandy

    Anyone notice how much this young lady actually looks like Cohen? Look at her eyes and nose. Something is not right about this story.

    July 19, 2013 11:35 am at 11:35 am |
  21. Larry in Houston

    CNN – sounds like this one is for the Jerry Springer articles, don't ya think ?

    July 19, 2013 11:54 am at 11:54 am |
  22. Janet

    NOW They are using the "I THOUGHT SHE WAS MY DAUGHTER SCHEME"????? WOW the world truly has gone nuts!

    July 19, 2013 12:25 pm at 12:25 pm |
  23. Wake up People!

    @Sandy. I agree, they do favor one another.

    But the mother should be ashamed of herself. She made her husband believe he was the father all of these years, she then tells her daughter and the other guy but not her husband. What a hot mess from a woman who is supposed to be a member of the party of family values. I bet that's how she got the husband to marry her, being knocked up by God only knows. She probably doesn't even know who the girls father is. This would be a god story for Maury.....

    July 19, 2013 12:25 pm at 12:25 pm |
  24. Rosemary in Memphis

    When Rep. Cohen came to believe that he was her biological father, he did the honorable thing and did not demand a DNA test, but acknowledged he could be her father based on the timing, and he welcomed her into his family. I think he absolutely did the stand-up thing to do, and tried to start building a father-daughter relationship with her. When the facts turned out to be that he is not her biological father, he has tried to handle this with grace and dignity, and with kindness to all concerned. Every young person could use a father figure or a mentor to help guide them through life, and I hope that they will be able to work that out. It's hard enough being a Congressman without having every aspect of your personal life under a spotlight.

    July 19, 2013 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  25. Her Mom Is Crazy

    So I read the mom's bio on her law website and she is certainly full of herself. She's got three kids and three ex-husbands and obviously a few ex-boyfriends in between. She uses the last name Sinatra and brags about her husband being Frank Sinatra Jr when they were only married less than a year and a half and divorced thirteen years ago. You can tell she is a piece of work, I believe this is all her fault.

    July 19, 2013 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
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