Rep. Steve Cohen Defends Racial Tweet That 'You're Black'
Two things Tennessee Rep. Steve Cohen, who is white, discovered about himself last week: He is not the father of a bikini model and "You're Black!"
Cohen's revelation Thursday that he is not the father of the woman he thought was his daughter preceded his Sunday tweet declaring that a tow truck driver told him, "You're Black! Yo," because of the congressman's paternity troubles and old car.
Told AfricanAmerican towdriver my week -father -DNA test not father reporter/ attractive fallout.he(not aware of TN9)says,You're BLack! Yo
- Steve Cohen (@RepCohen) July 21, 2013
"I took it as a compliment. I hear it in Memphis all the time," Cohen, D-Tenn., said on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" today. "Here's what happened: I drive an '86 Caddy. A lot of African-Americans drive old cars - a stereotype - a lot of African-Americans drive old cars."
Cohen, 64, represents Tennessee's Ninth Congressional District, which is 60 percent black. Elected to the House in 2006, he is the first white congressman to represent the district in almost 50 years and was the only white speaker last month at a Congressional Black Caucus news conference called after portions of the Voting Rights Act were struck down by the Supreme Court.
"My constituents don't look at me as a white person. They say, 'You're one of us,'" Cohen said this morning. "And I took it was a compliment. I hear it in Memphis all the time."
Several African-American state legislators, Democratic Party officials and Memphis council members have not responded to ABC News' request for reaction to his comments.
But Cohen's tweets have caused a stir, prompting one journalist, CNTV senior producer Myles Miller, who's African-American, to tweet that Cohen's remark from the tow truck driver "is just wrong on many levels. Like watching a car wreck in slow motion."
- Myles N. Miller (@mylesnmiller) July 21, 2013
The paternity saga that engulfed the congressman stemmed from a tweet he sent out during the president's State of the Union address to a woman, later identified as model Victoria Brink, saying, "pleased you are watching. ilu." "Ilu" is Internet slang for "I love you."
Inquiries into the deleted tweet prompted Cohen to first claim it was the daughter of a friend and then eventually reveal that it was his own daughter that he just found out about three years prior.
A recent paternity test proved the Cohen was not the father after all.
After a television report aired last week revealing he was not Brink's father, Cohen's 1986 Cadillac broke down in Washington. Again, Cohen took to Twitter to question, "Could the week get worse?yep!car died on .Mass Ave." Cohen told the tow truck driver of his paternity troubles, which Cohen said prompted the driver to say "You're Black! Yo"
Trying to calm the firestorm that ensued, Cohen said he wanted to get back to legislating and talking about real issues, prompting "Morning Joe" host Mika Brzezinski to say today, "Again, keep it off Twitter and we won't cover it."
The congressman has not responded to a request for comment.
ABC News' John Parkinson contributed to this report.