Cohen is a graduate of Far Rockaway High School and attended Hunter College, New York University, and Columbia University. He is a four-time Pulitzer Prize finalist in the "Commentary" category. Cohen splits his time between Washington, D.C. and New York City.
Some of Cohen's social views are ones attributed to American liberalism, but his political views are often conservative. For example, he is pro-choice and pro-gay rights, and agrees with former Vice President Al Gore on global warming. A Campaign Gore Can't LoseHowever, he was originally a supporter of the Iraq War, Richard Cohen - Conjecture Embraced As Fact - washingtonpost.com along with the Democrats in the Senate, and publicly supported the Bush administration in several other high profile instances.
Cohen criticized Stephen Colbert's speech at the 2006 White House Correspondents Dinner for being "rude" toward the President. Others point to his condemnation of President Bill Clinton over the Lewinsky scandal. Media Matters for America chided Cohen, Media Matters - Cohen - who never criticized Bush's 2004 skit mocking lack of Iraqi WMDs - called Colbert "a bully " for his "rude" and "insulting" correspondents dinner routi... Media Matters - Wash Post 's Cohen gave Bush free pass on new British memo Media Matters - Wash. Post 's Cohen falsely suggested that Fitzgerald's CIA leak probe was limited to single violation for some columns lacking what they see as necessary context and thus exhibiting a double standard favoring conservatives.
In a 2003 Washington Post column, Cohen wrote "the evidence Colin Powell presented to the United Nations ... some of it circumstantial, some of it absolutely bone-chilling in its detail ... had to prove to anyone that Iraq not only hasn't accounted for its weapons of mass destruction but without a doubt still retains them. Only a fool ... or possibly a Frenchman ... could conclude otherwise." washingtonpost.com: A Winning Hand for Powell Cohen also wrote that he believed "the prudent use of violence could be therapeutic" after the events of 9/11. CNN.com - Bush takes heat for WMD jokes - May 3, 2004 Cohen has since expounded upon his former views of support for the Iraq War, and his later stance against it. I was miserably wrong in my judgment and somewhat emotional. - By Richard Cohen - Slate Magazine
He received unflattering public attention in 1987 when it became public knowledge that he was having an affair with Kati Marton, the wife of ABC News anchorman Peter Jennings.
In August 2006, he wrote a column declaring that "Israel itself is a mistake" Richard Cohen - Hunker Down With History - washingtonpost.com in which he stated: "The greatest mistake Israel could make at the moment is to forget that Israel itself is a mistake. It is an honest mistake, a well-intentioned mistake, a mistake for which no one is culpable, but the idea of creating a nation of European Jews in an area of Arab Muslims (and some Christians) has produced a century of warfare and terrorism of the sort we are seeing now." For this statement Cohen was criticized in an essay released by the American Jewish Committee entitled Progressive' Jewish Thought and the New Anti-Semitism. He later clarified his statements in his next week's column, Richard Cohen - . . . No, It's Survival - washingtonpost.com saying, "Readers of my recent column on the Middle East can accuse me of many things, but not a lack of realism. I know Israel's imperfections, but I also exalt and admire its achievements. Lacking religious conviction, I fear for its future and note the ominous spread of European-style anti-Semitism throughout the Muslim world...and its boomerang return to Europe as a mindless form of anti-Zionism. Israel is, as I have often said, unfortunately located, gentrifying a pretty bad neighborhood. But the world is full of dislocated peoples, and we ourselves live in a country where the Indians were pushed out of the way so that...oh, what irony! -- the owners of slaves could spread liberty and democracy from sea to shining sea. As for Europe, who today cries for the Greeks of Anatolia or the Germans of Bohemia?" Elsewhere in the column, he defended Israel's military campaign in its 2006 war with Hezbollah in Lebanon.
In 2007 he criticized the prosecution of Scooter Libby (in the Plame affair criminal investigation) as politically motivated, saying "This is not an entirely trivial matter since government officials should not lie to grand juries, but neither should they be called to account for practicing the dark art of politics. As with sex or real estate, it is often best to keep the lights off." Richard Cohen - The Runaway Train That Hit Scooter Libby - washingtonpost.com Cohen was in turn criticized by Media Matters for America for factual errors in his presentation, including his contentions that Plame had not been a covert agent, and that "outing" Plame "turns out not to be a crime."
In 2010 he wrote that people who cling to the Constitution, specifically those rights not granted to the federal government but reserved to the people and the states, are wackos. "This fatuous infatuation with the Constitution, particularly the 10th Amendment, is clearly the work of witches, wiccans and wackos."
In 1998, Cohen was involved in a dispute with editorial aide Devon Spurgeon that was ultimately mediated by Washington Post management. Cohen reportedly asked Ms. Sturgeon questions about "casual sex", told her to "stand up and turn around", and gave her the "silent treatment" for three weeks. Cohen contended that "It was a personality dispute at an office, but it had nothing to do with sexual harassment as the term applies today." Post management concluded that Ms. Spurgeon had been subjected to a "hostile working environment" but not to "sexual harassment" and that Cohen was guilty of "inappropriate behavior."In 2009, Cohen was recognized as the "World's Worst Writer" by Wonkette.