Rep. Cohen: Deleted tweets were to my daughter

A congressman whose Twitter messages to an aspiring model 40 years his junior generated two days of salacious speculation has a surprising explanation for his tweets: the woman is his daughter.

"There has been much written and said about my tweeting a very beautiful 24-year-old woman during the State of the Union," Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Tenn., said tonight. "I haven't been able to say this until now, and I only found out three years ago, but I've known since then that the young lady is my daughter."

Tuesday night during President Obama's address, the 63-year-old Cohen said he was tweeting to his constituents from the House chamber when Victoria Brink (@victoria_brink) spotted him on TV and sent him a message saying she saw him.  Cohen replied, publicly, "pleased u r watching .ilu", short for "I love you."  He then followed up with another tweet which read: "nice to know you were watchin SOTU(state of the union).Happy Valentines beautiful girl. ilu". 

Cohen deleted the messages within minutes but the Sunlight Foundation, via its "politwoops" project, saves and publishes deleted tweets from members of Congress.

The story blew up on the internet the next day prompting Cohen to tell CBS News earlier today that Brink "is the daughter of a very good friend of mine, she's like family, like a child. This has nothing to do than anything other than an older person's appreciation of a younger person and their future. And everything that's been suggested in the press is sick."

Later, he announced she was his long-lost daughter and he was simply responding "to her and told her I love her, which I do.

"I'm very proud and happy to have a 24-year-old, beautiful, sweet, loving daughter. But I haven't been able to talk about this publicly because it wasn't known to others about this relationship. It had been kept secret for years," Cohen continued.

"Because of all these stories she has talked to others and let them know that I'm father. I'm pleased that we can have a better, more public relationship, even though we have started to develop one. She has a private life, I have a public life, and it has been hurtful to her to have things said about her on tweets and on comments and on scurrilous publications suggesting some type of March-November relationship."

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    Steve Chaggaris is CBS News' senior political editor.