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Rep. Cohen Haunted By Hillary/Fatal Attraction Gaffe

The grueling Democratic presidential primary may be over (but for the shouting), but the pain is only intensifying for freshman Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.), a Barack Obama backer whose gaffe last month comparing Hillary Rodham Clinton to the crazed Glenn Close in "Fatal Attraction" turned into a political horror show.


Cohen, left, offended Emily's LIST after comparing Hillary Clinton to the lover-turned-stalker character from the 1987 thriller "Fatal Attraction." (Photo composite by washingtonpost.com)

Cohen, who says he has always prided himself on his advocacy for women's rights, has never felt more dissed by the opposite sex. Paraphrasing his musical idol, the late Warren Zevon, Cohen said he almost wants to "lay my head down on the railroad tracks and wait for the Double E ... poor, poor pitiful me."

His woe-is-me condition comes after the powerful fundraising group EMILY's List, whose mission is to elect women who support abortion rights to Congress, made the unusual decision to endorse Cohen's main primary challenger, airline attorney Nikki Tinker. Tinker has no abortion rights record at all, while Cohen, one of the most liberal members of the House, has been endorsed by Planned Parenthood's political action committee and has received a "100 percent pro-choice score" from NARAL.

So why the endorsement? "It's because I'm a man," Cohen says. "And it's a woman thing."

But his second crime, besides having the wrong plumbing, was saying on local television last month when answering a question about Clinton's continued candidacy that "Glenn Close should have just stayed in the tub." Cohen sparked a mountain of outrage from women -- including from EMILY's List members -- and he wound up apologizing in very short order.

But the Memphis congressman is also indignant at the treatment he's receiving. "Just a little joke about getting out of the race and all of a sudden I'm a misogynist," Cohen tells us. He says EMILY's List, by working to unseat him, is "playing speech police."

Cohen's third (and final, as far as we know) crime was endorsing Obama for president. EMILY's List endorsed Clinton, with the group's president, Ellen Malcolm, declaring, "I am one of the millions of women who have waited all their lives to see the first woman sworn in as president of the United States -- and now we have our best opportunity to see that dream fulfilled."

The Memphis congressman suggests that Malcolm is punishing him for his choice. "I've been a surrogate of Barack Obama, and I don't think they liked that," he says. "They've gone so far out on a limb for Hillary Clinton."

Cohen says actor Cybill Shepherd was among the big-name women who called Malcolm on his behalf, to no avail.

Emily's List doesn't cite Cohen's endorsement of Obama or his comparison of Clinton to Glenn Close in "Fatal Attraction" as reasons for why the group endorsed his opponent. Jonathan Parker, the group's political director, says, "This is not just about Cohen, it's a choice. We think Tinker is a better choice." He offered no examples of why Cohen is the lesser choice.

Cohen, who is Jewish, is the only white member of Congress to represent a majority African American district. Tinker is black. And both race and religion have reared their heads in ugly ways in the primary. A black minister in Murfreesboro, Tenn., which isn't even in Cohen's district, circulated literature to Cohen's constituents warning: "Memphis Congressman Steve Cohen and the JEWS HATE Jesus." The flier encouraged Memphis voters to "see to it that one and ONLY one black Christian faces this opponent of Christ and Christianity in the 2008 election."

For now, Cohen is taking solace in the poll that Celinda Lake conducted for his campaign showing Cohen leading Tinker 63 percent to 11 percent. "I'm gonna win," Cohen said, his thick Southern accent putting an extra syllable in "win."

"Yeah, I'm gonna win."

By Mary Ann Akers  |  June 4, 2008; 4:02 PM ET
 
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Comments

With the General Election now started, I'm sure that the candidates are viewing all of their options for their running mate. If you want to see what America thinks who should be the VP for either dems or reps, you should go to

http://www.votenic.com

They started a VP poll last week, and the results from that poll have just been posted. This poll is honest and represents all of America. Help your favorite candidate choose his/her running mate.

Posted by: joe | June 4, 2008 4:14 PM | Report abuse

Cohen is fine because he steared clear of offending our Dear Leader and Messiah Barack Hussein Obama who brings hope to the masses and will lead us to a land of milk and honey

Posted by: Anonymous | June 4, 2008 5:20 PM | Report abuse

It is hard for me to understand why Emily's list views Nikki Tinker as the best choice in the Tennessee 9th Congressional race. She is weakly pro-choice, if pro-choice at all. It will be interesting to see if in Memphis she will stand up not just for Roe V Wade, but she will reject all the other restrictions the anti-choice factions try to impose on free choice, such as waiting periods, counseling, parental consent, denial of Federal funding, etc... She has not made a public stand in Memphis on these issues, for to do so would offend the core of her support and many local black Baptist ministers such as Leon "LaSimba" Gray and his ilk who are vehemently against abortions.

Many of these ministers have publicly stated that a Jew and a white can not and should not represent the predominately Christian and black 9th District. What has been Ms Tinker's response to these overtly racist and anti Semitic rants? Nothing!! She sits silently accepting the support of these ministers. Her silence represents a tacit acceptance of these intolerable opinions.

She claims to be pro-labor, but she is a pro-management lawyer. She has been the VP of Labor Relations for the overtly anti-labor Pinnacle Airlines. The President and Board of Pinnacle Airlines support her campaign while the local ALPA members do not.

She claims to be a Democrat, but the bulk of her local funding comes from a "Who's Who" list of Memphis Republicans. It curious that these ardent Bush supporters would agree with Emily's List

If Emily's List believes Nikki Tinker is the best candidate, one wonders on what this opinion is based. Hopefully Emily's List is not so bigoted as to believe that the qualification that makes her a better candidate than Steve Cohen is her sex. If this is true, Emily's List is no better than the Rev. Wrights and the "LaSimba" Grays.

Posted by: george | June 5, 2008 1:53 AM | Report abuse

Anyone who saw the movie Fatal Attraction will understand the similarity. It's at the other spectrum of Rocky. It all depends on one's personal perception. Hey, by the bye, what happened to free speech anyway?

Posted by: Joanne Montague | June 5, 2008 10:44 AM | Report abuse

Cohen calls the reaction to his little joke overreaction.
A public servant as faithful as he describes himself will know wherre the line is; when his words have exceeded the little joke category. He should know the power of his words and refrain from using those that characterize others in a bad light, especially a woman who is trying to break the tradition of noninclusion at the highest level of public service.

Free speech? Free speech is not a license. For instance, one could say of Rep. Cohen, to hell with him. But that would be wrong.

And why do they think they are funny and that we are all so perfectly adjusted and calibrated that we can read every nuance of his comedic performance?

On the other hand, my preference woulid have been for Emily to keep a protracted silence for a while, then act in our best interest.

Posted by: Nancy Brooks | June 5, 2008 12:23 PM | Report abuse

I think that this riff among various women's groups is exactly what did in Hillary's campaign, this very emotional and sexist attitude. There is more to running a country than pandering to the "women's vote", elections are about ideas that will move th country forward, that will raise its stature in world. Because of the 8 years of Bush politics, the U.S. has much to overcome and Hillary had not enunciated anything that remotely addressed this situation. Further, Hillary's close ties with the lobby groups on K-Street merely guaranteed "business as usual". I think people are now tired of the same 'ol, same 'ol.

Posted by: RedRat | June 5, 2008 2:18 PM | Report abuse

Cohen grabbed the wrong kind of 15 minutes of fame. His analogy was mean-spirited and divisive. I hope he is penalized by the voters for this. He made an extremely distasteful remark towards Sen. Clinton and surely did not do our nominee Barack Obama any favors.
There is no room for this kind of sentiment in our party and he does not represent the supporters of Barack Obama.

Posted by: JR | June 5, 2008 3:33 PM | Report abuse

Being a liberal, pro choice, female Democrat I'm appalled that a pro choice group would back an unknown over Cohen.

Terrible, terrible decision and the next time Emily's List sends me a letter begging for funds, I'll know what to do with it.

Emily's List? Get a sense of humor.

Posted by: FC | June 6, 2008 1:08 PM | Report abuse

I am a male supporter of Emily's List, Sen. Clinton, Sen. Obama, as well as Rep. Steve Cohen. I believe Rep. Cohen is an outstanding representative who has a proven record in favor of women's rights and abortion rights and deserves re-election. However, I do find his comment on Hillary Clinton repugnant and I hope he gives a fuller apology for it. However, I don't think that that statement alone should mean that Emily's List should support his opponent who has no proven record on women's rights. This is another reason why we need an Obama/Clinton ticket. We need to bring each other up NOT tear each other down.

Posted by: kind671 | June 6, 2008 2:13 PM | Report abuse

How dare he insult Glenn Close by even so much as dragging her name into a conversation involving "Shrillary"!

Posted by: Buckaroo | June 7, 2008 8:15 AM | Report abuse

Mary Ann ... I don't think you'll ever have to woory about Cohen getting a " Fatal Attraction " for you . In fact ... that's the last of your worries from ANY man !

Posted by: dean | June 9, 2008 12:37 PM | Report abuse

Representative Cohen -- just another male sexist in denial. I agree with Doralee in the movie 9 to 5: "I say we hire a couple'a wranglers to go upstairs and beat the(crap)out of him."

Posted by: mpwynn@spro.net | June 9, 2008 1:15 PM | Report abuse

So, Mr. Cohen is JEWISH? Well, then we can____________Whatever we've said is DEMEANING and DEGRADING to Jews! Did he like it?

When is the moronic misogynist going to see the light? Oh, well...

OBAMYOPIA is a curable affliction and come November, Cohen and his woman-bashing will be cured with some bitter medicine.

CONGRATS TO NIKKI for the endorsement. Well received.

ANYONE BUT COHEN!

Posted by: memi | June 9, 2008 4:19 PM | Report abuse

So, Mr. Cohen is JEWISH? Well, then we can____________Whatever we've said is DEMEANING and DEGRADING to Jews! Did he like it?

When is the moronic misogynist going to see the light? Oh, well...

OBAMYOPIA is a curable affliction and come November, Cohen and his woman-bashing will be cured with some bitter medicine.

CONGRATS TO NIKKI for the endorsement. Well received.

ANYONE BUT COHEN!

Posted by: memi | June 9, 2008 4:19 PM | Report abuse

I note with amusement and horror that some female neanderthal and Obamyopic supporter of the protagonist of the YuTube mega-hit:

"OBAMA GIVES HILLARY THE F!NGER"

says we should take the Cohen dose of misogyny in stride--and LAUGH at his good-natured humour.

Are these women stupid or dreaming the Obama post- dream? Don't they know his CRUEL, IDIOTIC comment hurts their daughters and themselves?

GROW UP, IDIOT COHEN!

Posted by: PattieR2 | June 9, 2008 4:25 PM | Report abuse

Mr. Cohen, surely you must feel rather intellectually impotent these days to resort to this woman-trashing analogy to booster up your rather diminishing in scope and substance....plumbing.

Perhaps electing a woman may teach your pathetically "out of touch" sense of sexist humour a lesson worth remembering.
But as an Obamabot, we don't expect you to be anything but a creep totally in tune with His Master. Obama said "her claws are coming out". So I guess you've learned that you have to talk like an Obama to be credible to the misogynist Obama troglodytes sharing your sexist tent.

Hope you enjoyed your sexist moment of fame. From now on, you'll have to earn your keep. Or are jews too cheap (how'd you like to hear an anti-semitic comment, Cohen?). Grow up and see the similarities. Stop being such an Obama-guy! It stinks

Posted by: megan | June 9, 2008 4:40 PM | Report abuse

Cohen, you sure HAVEN'T COME A LONG WAY, CREEPO!

GROW UP!

Posted by: jo | June 9, 2008 4:41 PM | Report abuse

He along with other Democrats felt they should chime in and insult Senator Clinton along with the media. The Democratic party did and said absolutely nothing in Senator Clinton's defense and I find the party truly lacking. I'm going Independent and wish Hillary had changed to Independent and ran on that ticket because millions of people would vote for her. I dislike the way she felt pressured to give in. Her party really did a number on her. It should be about the country and not the Democratic party. That is why I'm changing.

Posted by: bgail48 | June 10, 2008 2:20 AM | Report abuse

Do chimps drink milk and honey?

Posted by: Anonymous | June 10, 2008 8:02 PM | Report abuse

Those of you (including Rep Cohen himself) who think that this was just a joke seem to be forgetting what happened to Glenn Close when she emerged from that tub. She was shot.
Good for you, Emily's List. We must bring to an end the hypocrisy in the Democratic Party -- full of politicians who think it is enough to vote the right way on abortion, but then turn around and denigrate strong female candidates. The Obama campaign couldn't attack Clinton on the issues so they sent surrogates like Cohen out to attack her on the basis of her sex. Just a joke? Because you're laughing at her that makes it better?
I just wrote a check to Tinker's campaign.

Posted by: croll | June 14, 2008 2:58 AM | Report abuse

"Cohen, who is Jewish, is the only white member of Congress to represent a majority African American district...."

This statement is factually inaccurate. Congressman Bob Brady of Pennsylvania represents a majority Black district

Posted by: Paul | June 17, 2008 9:39 AM | Report abuse

Are they both members of the my district has more darkies than yours caucus?

Posted by: Anonymous | June 17, 2008 10:10 AM | Report abuse

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