Scott Lee Cohen, the embattled Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor of Illinois, appeared for an interview Thursday on Chicago Tonight, seeking to answer questions about allegations of domestic violence, drug abuse and other damaging issues.
Cohen has faced significant controversy — including a call from Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn to potentially quit the race — since he narrowly won a six-way Democratic primary on Tuesday. In 2005, he was arrested for allegedly threatening his girlfriend at the time by putting a knife to her throat and throwing her against a wall. The case was dropped after the woman, who had previously been arrested for prostitution and later pleaded guilty, failed to show up to court. In addition, his wife said in his divorce case that he abused steroids and attempted to sexually assault her. Cohen has admitted to past steroid use.
“You know, all this happened at a rough time in my life, and you know, I understand it looks bad,” said Cohen, who was accompanied in the interview by his ex-wife Debra York-Cohen. “And that’s why I tried so hard to put it out, the day I announced I was running. I have answered every question that was asked me by the media, in a full, complete, and honest way. Again, I tried so hard to put this out the day I announced so it wouldn’t come to this. Nobody wanted to listen.”Interviewer Phil Ponce asked Debra York-Cohen about her allegation that Cohen attempted to force himself upon her sexually. “At the time, that was an accurate statement,” said York-Cohen. “And again, I will reiterate what I said before, that Scott was at that time using steroids, which he has openly come forward and discussed with anyone and everyone who’s asked him that. That’s who he was then. That is not who he is now. And as a matter of fact, it wasn’t who he was through the rest of the proceedings of our divorce, because all that had ended.
York-Cohen also declined to comment on whether Cohen has been timely with alimony payments, citing ongoing legal proceedings.
Ponce asked Cohen about the 2005 police report, which said that his then-girlfriend had physical scarring that was presumably from the altercation in question. Cohen strongly denied hitting the woman. “You know what, she may have had marks, but if she did, they were done by her,” said Cohen. “And if we can find her, and have her come forward, I’m sure she would tell you the same thing.”
Regarding his past steroid use, Cohen said: “You know what. It was all at the same time, it was a bad time in my life. You know, I was trying to put muscle on. It was a bad decision.”
Cohen said that he would not leave the race. “I don’t believe that I’m an embarrassment to the ticket,” said Cohen. “From day one, I’ve been honest and forthright. Again, I tried so hard to put it out there.”
Ponce asked Cohen about the conventional wisdom that if Cohen continues on the Democratic ticket, Gov. Pat Quinn does not stand a chance of winning. “You know what, he would be running with the most honest man, the most dedicated person,” said Cohen. “I absolutely, strongly disagree. I think it’s a strength for the party.”
However, at the very end of the interview, Ponce asked Cohen what he would do if it became clear that his candidacy would prevent a Democrat from being elected governor. Would he drop out then? “I would have to seriously think about it, because I would never ever do anything to hurt the people of Illinois,” said Cohen.