Rep. Steve Cohen: A Tale of the Tape

It was a turn-of-events all but written for a Days of Our Lives episode. Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) was seen trading seemingly flirtatious tweets with a young, attractive blonde during the State of the Union speech.

The woman, a co-ed named Victoria Brink, we come to find out, is his secret daughter (pictured at right).

How it progressed…

New York magazine reported on the incident the day after SOTU last week, calling Cohen’s tweets “flirty.” And reasonably so. The whole thing was like a replay of the Anthony Weiner scandal, minus boner shots. “Happy Valentines beautiful girl. [I love you]” was among the tweets sent to Brink by Cohen.

Feeding into the weirdness was Cohen’s flack, Michael Pagan, who told New York that Brink is “the daughter of a longtime friend” of Cohen’s and that Cohen has “known her pretty much her whole life.”

Judy Kurtz and Alexandra Jaffe at The Hill double bylined a story that ran a little more than an hour later with very similar content to New York‘s, with additional details on Brink being a college student and aspiring model. Kurtz and Jaffe got a link from the Drudge Report.

The Free Beacon wrote up the story, calling Brink a “groupie” that “hollered” at Cohen.

Later that evening, RedState asked if Cohen was “schtupping his buddy’s daughter?”

It wasn’t until NBC’s Luke Russert swooped in on a white horse (a very large horse) to make the big reveal: “Cohen (D-Tenn.) tells me woman he tweeted during SOTU is in fact his daughter, he only learned of her 3 yrs ago,” Russert wrote on Twitter.


The next day, WaPo‘s Reliable Source column reported on the entire matter linking to nothing but other WaPo stories. (Why not make it look like you rolled in late as usual or that you didn’t actually break the story?)


New York updated its story, acknowledging that Cohen’s tweets were more “loving” and less “flirty,” in light of the development. RedState also updated with a “sorry about that…”

The Hill, which arguably led to the story’s prominence, updated their story, saying the young woman is the congressman’s “long-lost-daughter.” The publication also reported that Cohen chose not to immediately reveal Brink is his daughter out of respect for the privacy of her and her family. That explains the odd “daughter of a longtime friend” explanation from the flack.

Final lesson…

The Daily Download, a publication co-founded by Howard Kurtz (media critic but also father to Judy Kurtz), posted a perfectly preachy column by Ben Jacbos for all the reporters who jumped the gun. “Reporters need to be more careful,” Jacobs wrote, after what must have been hours of thought. “After all, things aren’t always as they seem.”

Sure, reporters could be more careful. You never know when revelations of a long-lost daughter could turn up to explain things. Reporters might even have said, “the whole thing appears to be fake” and “sometimes it pays to wait for the facts.”

That’s the Howie way. But sometimes you take that route and end up five days late to a Weiner story that definitely had legs.