Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
August 1, 2014

Steve Cohen Just Wants to Have Fun

Let’s give Rep. Steve Cohen the benefit of the doubt, at the same time keeping straight all that is going into his explanation over his latest Twitter misadventure: Cyndi Lauper, his own daughter, Mavis Staples, the movie ‘Absence of Malice,’ two of his own colleagues, the White House, and, of course, the Sunlight Foundation.

At a somewhat perplexing news conference Friday afternoon, the Tennessee Democrat said that a tweet he fired off from his Twitter account Tuesday night to singer Cyndi Lauper, saying she was “hot” at a performance at the White House, wasn’t a mistake but rather a prank on the media.

Cohen gave a couple of reasons as to why he sent the tweet in question to Lauper: “CyndiLauper great night,couldn’t believe how hot u were.see you again next Tuesday.try a little tenderness”

First, he said he wanted to promote the White House program – which featured performances of Memphis music by Justin Timberlake, Queen Latifah, Mavis Staples and the Alabama Shakes, among others, and will be replayed on Tuesday on PBS.

Second, he said he was trying to turn “gotcha” journalism around on all of us journalists.

“Wanting to promote this great program, which will air this coming Tuesday on PBS, I realized the best way to do this was to tweet and delete,” Cohen said, adding that he let two other members, Reps. John Yarmuth, D-Ky., and Joe Courtney, D-Conn., in on his plan. “I knew the Sunlight Foundation would highlight the deleted tweet as a Politwoop, and knowing how some in the media report deleted Politwoops as nefarious, it occurred to me that a perfectly innocent, factually correct tweet, once deleted, would receive a great media attention. And that’s exactly what happened.”

Courtney said he didn’t know about the tweet before it was sent. “Ahead of time, he was not,” Courtney Communications Director Josh Zembik said. “He found out about this Wednesday night at the Nationals’ game, which was after the tweet in question was sent.”

We couldn’t get ahold of Yarmuth (he’s probably understandably swamped with requests) but his press guy told The Washington Post that he didn’t know about the tweet in question until afterward also.

The four-term member said his Twitter prank was his way of showing how the media damages people’s lives with “gotcha” journalism. He said the resulting coverage of a tweet he sent during the State of the Union address, in which it was revealed that Cohen had a daughter that he had recently found out about, “personally hurt and victimized” Cohen’s family.

“For two months, I’ve had on my mind the movie ‘Absence of Malice,’ the first screenplay by Kurt Luedtke, a former reporter,” Cohen said in a statement. “The movie highlights the damage done to persons, albeit with a legal absence of malice, because of sloppy, ‘gotcha’ journalism.”

At the newser, Cohen said we media folk just don’t understand him.

 ”If I said Justin Timberlake was hot, y’all would have said I was gay. The Alabama Shakes were great, you would have said I was into a group scene.”

Well, Cohen has surely got us, because we’re still kind of confused by the whole thing. He also apparently got Lauper, who wasn’t aware of the whole thing beforehand either.

HOH will try to watch the 32-year-old film “Absence of Malice” to try to understand further what might have driven Cohen to ratchet up this controversy. (Sadly, it’s not on Netflix instant watch so we may have to search pretty hard to find ourselves a copy.) We also promise to listen to some Staples tunes, as well as our much-played Alabama Shakes album.

But in the meantime, HOH has a message for Cohen: Do not heed the advice of those who are telling you to “get out of Twitter.” The account has provided us with too much entertainment.

Neda Semnani contributed to this report.

Correction: 5:24 p.m.

An earlier version of this post incorrectly stated Rep. Steve Cohen’s time in Congress. He is in his fourth term.

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