Tennessee Congressman Steve Cohen is no stranger to Twitter-based controversies — in February, he sent a string of affectionate tweets to a 24-year-old woman who turned out to be his daughter, and on Thursday he wrote, then deleted, a tweet calling the singer-activist Cyndi Lauper "hot." But throughout Friday morning and afternoon, at the end of a week cluttered with press criticism, Cohen explained to multiple outlets that calling Lauper "hot," then attempting to hide evidence of doing so, was part of an elaborate ploy to prank the political media, thereby drawing attention to their taste for scandal. First, Cohen told The Daily Beast's Howard Kurtz that the tweet and its subsequent disappearance were "all a ruse. ... I knew by deleting it they would run it, it would give it news, give it life. That was the hook." Minutes after Kurtz's story went up, Luke Russert at NBC reported on Twitter that Cohen intended to "punk" the D.C. press corps as retribution for their interest in the tweets he sent to his daughter.
It gets even stranger. At a hastily-scheduled press conference held on Capitol Hill, Cohen told reporters that the real point of his deleting his tweet was to promote the Memphis-area music scene — in particular, the PBS production Memphis Soul — and that he devised this strategy in the company of Congressmen John Yarmouth and Joe Courtney. But he seemed focused on getting even with the same reporters, telling Kurtz that they "went way overboard with [covering the deleted tweets sent to his daughter]. It hurt my daughter and my relationship with her." (Cohen had only recently discovered that the woman was his daughter.)
At the same time, Cohen now seems to fashion himself as a sophisticated media critic. According to Politico's Kate Nocera, the Congressman argued that, had he called the actor-singer Justin Timberlake "hot," the political media would have speculated that he was attracted to men:
Cohen says if he had tweeted that Justin Timberlake was hot we would have written he was gay.— KateNocera (@KateNocera) April 12, 2013
However, Cohen points out, timberlake's performance WAS hot.— KateNocera (@KateNocera) April 12, 2013
Cohen: I don't think its bad if people think I find Cyndi Lauper attractive, birds do it, bees do it.— KateNocera (@KateNocera) April 12, 2013
In the end, Cohen said that would take a nap because he "was up late last night." TGIF, right?