The Look in Brief

From the 901: Cohen opponent characterizes congressman as “embarrassment”

By: - June 12, 2020 6:00 am
House Judiciary Committee hearing, from Corey Strong email, June 10. (Photo: Jim Watson/Getty Images)

Photo of U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen on May 2, 2019 at House Judiciary Committee hearing, from Corey Strong email, June 10. (Photo: Jim Watson/Getty Images)

Memphis attorney Corey Strong, who is running in the Democratic primary against U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen, characterized Cohen as an “embarrassment” in a fundraising email Wednesday.

Titled “Are you embarrassed?”, the email read, in part: “When the nation looks at us, what do they see? Our esteemed representative leering over a bucket of chicken? They see Congressman Cohen equating himself to a black woman? Giving himself membership into our service sorority, Alpha Kappa Alpha? Minimizing the meaning behind one of our most special recognitions, the Purple Heart medal.”

Cohen drew attention in 2019 when he ate Kentucky Fried Chicken at a hearing of the House Judiciary Committee to make light of Attorney General William Barr’s failure to testify before the committee.

Corey Strong (Photo:
Corey Strong (Photo:

Rick Maynard, Cohen’s spokesman, said the seven-term congressman is running a positive race based on his congressional record and declined further comment.

“If he wants to base his qualifications on his record, let’s look at the whole record,” said Strong. “He has a reputation locally as a quirky person. In my opinion it’s a symptom of us using kid gloves with him. He has a long history of doing questionable and embarrassing things. They know him by the fried chicken, the twitter exchange with the woman who may or not be his daughter.”

The latter was a reference to a 2013 incident in which Cohen found out through a DNA test a woman he thought was his daughter was not. 

Cohen was elected to represent Tennessee’s 9th District in 2006, when then representative Harold Ford, Jr. vacated the seat to run for U.S. Senate. Since then, Cohen has faced opposition in every primary election and from Republicans in most general elections. Cohen was first elected to office at the age of 28 in 1978, when he won a spot on the Shelby County Commission. From 1982-2006, he represented District 30 in the Tennessee Senate where he gained a reputation as a reliably progressive.

Strong, a native of Memphis as is Cohen, is a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis and serves as a commander in the Naval Reserves as well as serving as Director of Operations for Shelby County Schools. This is his first run for office.

“There’s a good amount of grassroots support from people who feel like the congressman has lost touch with the district and he’s more focused on DC and media,” said Strong.


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Holly McCall
Holly McCall

Holly McCall has been a fixture in Tennessee media and politics for decades. She covered city hall for papers in Columbus, Ohio and Joplin, Missouri before returning to Tennessee with the Nashville Business Journal. Holly brings a deep wealth of knowledge about Tennessee’s political processes and players and likes nothing better than getting into the weeds of how political deals are made.