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.
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.