Tennessee congressman Steve Cohen 'stunned' to learn Texas model not his daughter

WASHINGTON-- Tennessee Rep. Steve Cohen said Thursday he was "stunned and dismayed" to learn that the 24-year-old Texas model he described as his long-lost daughter earlier this year is in fact no relation.

CNN broke an "exclusive" story Thursday morning after the network arranged to give DNA tests to Cohen, Victoria Brink, and the man who raised her as his daughter, Texas oil executive John Brink.

The Memphis Democrat brought Victoria Brink to national attention in February when he tweeted a message to her during President Barack Obama's State of the Union address, then immediately deleted it. The action was automatically captured by the good-government group The Sunlight Foundation's Politwoops project, and speculation about the bachelor congressman and a swimsuit model went viral.

It took Cohen two days to acknowledge that she was his daughter, and that he had known of her for three years.

On the CNN broadcast Thursday morning, Victoria Brink says the DNA paternity tests indicate "Steve Cohen is not my father."

She said the last few months have been "overwhelming, crazy, stressful."

Cohen has said he learned that a former girlfriend had a daughter about nine months from the "time we were involved" and speculated it could be his, and was joyous when it appeared to be confirmed.

In a written statement released by his office Thursday, Cohen said:

"I was overjoyed when I was informed that Victoria was my daughter. Since then, I have given her my unconditional love and done my best at being a father as I tried to make up for lost time.

"I was stunned and dismayed when DNA tests disproved what Victoria and I believed about our relationship. I still love Victoria, hold dear the time I have shared with her, and hope to continue to be a part of her life.

"It's been a roller coaster ride these last three and a half years from which I have learned something about parenting and some more about love, life, and heartache."

John Brink said he never doubted that she was his daughter, telling CNN: "I changed her first diaper. I cut her umbilical cord."

An emailed request for comment from Victoria Brink's mother, Houston criminal defense lawyer Cynthia White Sinatra -- a former candidate for Congress against libertarian Republican Ron Paul -- did not receive an immediate response.

According to her law firm web page, Sinatra, 60, was married to Frank Sinatra Jr., the son of the famous "Old Blue Eyes." She has represented criminal defendants before the International War Crimes Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, including Dragan Jokic, a Bosnia Serb accused of genocide, murder and torture in the 1995 Srebrenica massacre.

Calls and email messages left for Cohen and his chief of staff were not immediately returned Thursday.

(Reach Scripps reporter Bartholomew Sullivan at sullivanb@shns.com. Distributed by Scripps Howard News Service)

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