Rep. Steve Cohen, who made headlines earlier this year when his errant tweets during the State of the Union ultimately revealed he had a secret daughter, is back in the news for tweets he published and deleted after a White House event on Memphis Soul Tuesday.
Cohen, who represents Memphis, missed votes in the House of Representatives Tuesday evening to attend the event that included singer-actress Cyndi Lauper.
The next morning, the four-term Democrat reacted to the performance on Twitter: “Cyndi, Wow what a night! See you next Tuesday and Try a little tenderness again! Wow! What a special night. Thanks Steve.”
The tweet was sent at 10:31 a.m. and was deleted within 34 seconds.
About eight hours later, Cohen, who has never married, tweeted directly at Lauper, expressing disbelief at “how hot” she was during her performance the previous night.
“@cyndilauper great night,couldn’t believe how hot u were.see you again next Tuesday.try a little tenderness,” Cohen, D-Tenn., tweeted. About 21 minutes later, that tweet was deleted without explanation, setting off the blogosphere.
Lauper has apparently been silent on the matter.
As the news began to spread today, Cohen, 63, called a press conference in his Capitol Hill office where he claimed his tweets, which were archived on the Internet by Politwoops, were part of a scheme to pay back the media for hurting him and his family with reports on his daughter, Victoria Brink.
“They affect real people, and when they wrote about me and my daughter in a salacious manner, they hurt my daughter, they hurt my family and they hurt me,” Cohen said, lecturing reporters from behind his desk. “People should be more circumspect in what they write and be more concerned when they write something suggesting something of a nefarious or salacious nature without having some understanding.”
Asked how he’d react to anyone who challenged that he was being truthful today, Cohen said, “They can call [Reps.] John Yarmuth and Joe Courtney who I talked about it on Monday on the floor and said, ‘Boys wait till you see what I do this week with the press.’”
The House was not in session Monday, and spokespeople for both Yarmuth and Courtney said Cohen did not tell either of them about his scheme until Wednesday during votes, after he had deleted the first Lauper tweet, but before his second tweet about the singer.
Marilyn Dillihay, the congressman’s chief of staff, says that Cohen meant to tell reporters today that he told his congressional colleagues of his plans on Wednesday during votes. But that timeline still indicates that Cohen only told Yarmuth and Courtney about it once he had already put his bizarre playbook into motion.
“The fact is, I tweeted exactly what I wanted to tweet and I deleted exactly what I wanted to delete because in this age, I discovered that the best way to get a message out is to ‘Tweet and Delete,’” Cohen said. “The press will instantaneously assume the worst, something nefarious, something salacious and jump on.”
Cohen said that he conjured up the scheme with the hope of gaining viral publicity for the White House Memphis Soul event. He added that he did not believe that the media attention has distracted his constituents or taken away any focus from the event, which will broadcast on PBS next Tuesday.
“I’ve publicized my district every chance I can, and that’s what I wanted to do, and I think it’s been very successful,” Cohen said. “My constituents will love this. It’s promoting Memphis music.”
Cohen said he has not heard from Lauper, who is married, but he intends to write her a note explaining himself because he believes “this is all-good for her.”
“If I had said it about Justin Timberlake, you all would have written that I was gay, and his performance was hot too,” he added. “So was Eddie Floyd’s and so was the Alabama Shakes, and if it was the Alabama Shakes you might have thought I was trying to get into a group scene.”