DC Interview: Pawnbroker and onetime nominee for Illinois lieutenant governor Scott Lee Cohen

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Scott Lee Cohen came seemingly out of nowhere last week to win the Democratic party’s nomination for lieutenant governor in Illinois, after funding his campaign with $2 million of his own money. Within hours it emerged that Cohen, a pawnbroker, had once been charged with holding a knife to the throat of his girlfriend, a former prostitute. Cohen pointed out that he had divulged his past at the start of his campaign and was surprised the attacks came only after he won. According to Cohen’s ex-wife, the newly minted nominee also had a history of missing child support payments, taking illegal steroids and bursting into fits of uncontrolled rage.

Over the weekend, in a teary televised news conference, Cohen took himself out of the race. Shortly afterward, he spoke to The Daily Caller’s Aleksandra Kulczuga.

Here’s the announcement he made during the Super Bowl Halftime:

The Daily Caller: Tell me about what’s happened to you in the past 48 hours.
Scott Lee Cohen: “Ok, well, as you know I won the Democratic nomination for lieutenant governor, and one minute you’re on top of the world … and then I dunno.”

The DC: We’ve all been watching what’s happening from here in Washington.
SLC: “You know, I was never charged with anything. I was never found guilty of anything. I put this out to the public and to the media when I announced. I didn’t hide anything, I never sealed any of my court records.”

The DC: How did you feel when the Democratic leaders called you?
SLC: “Actually, no one from the Democratic party called me with the exception of — Michael Madigan [Illinois state Democratic Party chairman] called me, number one. I did not receive one call from anyone. Not one call.”

The DC: And were you shocked when they asked you to step down?
SLC: “You know how I found out about it? I was reading about it in the papers, Dick Durbin’s comments.”

The DC: And how do you feel about Chicago Mayor Richard Daley’s vocal support of you?
SLC: “I admired him for that and thanked him for that. All my supporters and everyone who endorsed me, with the exception of maybe two of them, stood by me. It’s not like I was hiding anything.”

The DC: Did the state Democratic Party offer you anything to drop out?
SLC: “They promised me nothing, they gave me nothing.”

The DC: How could you walk away from a nomination you won fairly?
SLC: “You know … the media. I have children. The media was never fair with me, they never reported everything. They made it so one-sided that it was affecting my children’s lives. The media was calling my kids! That’s not fair to them. They never signed on for that.”

The DC: Ok, but a lot of politicians cite “family reasons.” Was that really it?

SLC: “Here’s what the Democratic Party said that scared me: There is a chance that I single-handedly could sink that ticket. Do you think I want that on my conscience for a one second for the rest of my life? That I caused that? That I let down the people of Illinois? That I caused the Democratic ticket to sink? That’s awful heavy to put on one person. I didn’t sign on as the president of the United States, I signed on as the lieutenant governor of Illinois.”

The DC: So they said you would bring down the party?
SLC: “Yes, they said all the focus would be on me, and not on the issues at hand. They said it was for the good of the Democratic party because I would be a distraction in the general election that I should step down.”

The DC: And did you buy that?
SLC: “I think they felt that the media would have focused on the breakdown of communication in the media, the breakdown of communication in the Democratic party. The idea that an outsider, that a pawnbroker won Illinois’ lieutenant governor nomination …”

The DC: How long have you been a pawnbroker?
SLC: “My whole life. I only own one shop, and to be honest with you, I don’t handle the day-to-day operations. I haven’t handled it in many years.”

The DC: Did you know about your girlfriend’s profession?
SLC: “You know what, I met her at a massage parlor, and I knew that that was her profession; I did not know she was a prostitute. And to be honest with you, later when she pleaded guilty to those charges, I think she pled guilty because she didn’t have the money to defend herself in a way that would have exonerated her.”

The DC: And what about her claim that you held a knife to her throat?
SLC: “You know, again I wanted people to know they were being represented by someone who made mistakes in their life. I can’t say it clear enough, and this is one of the things that upset me — she allegated [sic] I did it, and I never, ever hurt her or touched her. That’s something I need to make very clear.”

The DC: How long were you with her?
SLC: “I think it was about a year.”

The DC: Tell me about your use of illegal steroids.
SLC: “You know, I think that I did something in my life that I deeply regret. I am the first person to advocate against the use of steroids, and I will explain to you why. I am a Type II diabetic now, and I strongly relate that to my use of steroids. I never went to jail for doing something illegal. But now I’m going to have something that is going to affect me for the rest of my life.”

The DC: Does steroid use reflect poorly on your character?
SLC: “How can it be a character flaw if it’s something that I did once in my life? You know a character flaw is something that you repeatedly do. I also think that I need to make it clear for the record: I don’t do cocaine, I don’t do marijuana or any kind of illicit drugs. If I had some sort of personality disorder I think I would be doing something else today.”

The DC: What are you saying now to the people of Illinois who voted for you?
SLC: “I think that the best message to get to the people is that you should always … Let me step back — I’m living proof that you should always pursue your dreams.”

The DC: Are you going to pursue public office again?
SLC: “At this time I haven’t decided. You know, again, I’m keeping all my doors and windows open at this time. But there’s something else we have to talk about, and I think that as the weeks and months go on, a lot of these things that people view as deficits will come out. I had to drop out of high school, were you aware of that?”

The DC: No, I was not.
SLC: “I had to drop out of high school when my father was sick, I was 17 or 18, and I not only ran the family business, and I took my father’s single store, and I turned it into a chain of stores.”

The DC: So you own a chain of stores?
SLC: “No, no, I sold them all off. There’s only the one left. You know it’s funny, all the papers and the TVs are talking about the negatives, what about all the good I’ve done in my life? What about pursuing my dreams of being elected to public office? The fact that I had to drop out of high school, that I was successful — that I am still a successful businessman. Or the charities I help like the Jeffrey Pride foundation for pediatric cancers. What about all the job fairs I’ve had to provide jobs for the people of Illinois?”

The DC: How many job fairs have you held?
SLC: “I’ve held three job fairs.”

The DC: Anything else you want to say?
SLC: “I think everything is out there.”

Watch Mayor Daley defend Cohen:

View more news videos at: http://www.nbcchicago.com/video.

Cohen defends his record:

View more news videos at: http://www.nbcchicago.com/video.