Congressman Cohen gets apology from local ministers

Less than a week after being grilled at a Memphis Baptist Ministerial Association meeting, Tennessee Congressman Steve Cohen got an apology from one of the ministers who belongs to that group.

During Sunday services at Bethlehem Missionary Baptist Church, Cohen got a formal apology from Rev. O.C. Collins and his congregation.

"And I feel all the love today, and I thank you for giving it to me," said Cohen.

It was an apology for a heated meeting in which some Baptist Ministerial Association members blasted Cohen when he showed up to state his positon on the hate crimes bill.

"Ah, there were calls or heckles or sounds which I couldn't really perceive. I knew they weren't supportive," Cohen added.

Perhaps the most stinging criticism was echoed by some ministers who feel that as a white man Cohen cannot adequately represent his predominately black district.

"And I don't think any person should say that's not me I'm not going to sit up here and say that white people cannot adequately represent me. Ah, Bill Clinton adequately represented me, more than adequately," says Rev. Collins.

In bringing Cohen before his church, Reverend Collins says he was not trying to judge fellow ministers in the Association.

Instead, he spoke out because Cohen is a long time family friend and says he didn't deserved to be heckled.

Congressman Cohen says he thinks supporters of his political rival Nikki Tinker stirred up the criticisms against him.

In a statement e-mailed to the Commercial Appeal, Tinker describes Cohen's accusations as pure fiction.

She went on to say: "I am not going to play the politics of divide and conquer with Representative Cohen."


to email Ben Watson.