Democratic Senator Sheldon Whitehouse said his family’s exclusive beach club had ‘diversity in its membership’ when he was all white


Sheldon Whitehouse. Win McNamee / Getty Images

  • Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, of Rhode Island, is criticized for his family’s membership in a beach club.

  • Whitehouse, a Democrat, said the exclusive club “is still working” to retain non-white members.

  • On Monday, he told reporters that the seaside club “actually has a diversity of members.”

  • See more stories on the Insider business page.

Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, a Democrat from Rhode Island, is under fire for his family’s membership in an exclusive Newport beach club over questions as to whether the club has an all-white membership.

This weekend, media outlet GoLocal Providence sparked new questions about Whitehouse’s association with Bailey’s Beach Club, in which the senator’s wife has a significant stake. In 2017, GoLocal reported that Whitehouse announced he would be leaving the club as he ran for election in 2006. Instead, the senator allegedly transferred his stake to his wife.

During a brief interview on Friday, GoLocal asked Whitehouse if the club has members of color.

“I think the people who run the place are still working on it, and I’m sorry that hasn’t happened yet,” he said in response.

Monday, White House told reporters the club is not all white.

“The club informs me that they actually have a diversity of members,” Whitehouse said, adding that he was no longer a member.

When asked whether “elite, all-white and wealthy clubs” should continue to exist, the senator said there is a “long tradition” of such organizations in his home state. .

“We just have to work our way through the problems,” he said.

Whitehouse staff insisted on Monday that the beach club is not entirely white and “doesn’t have such a restrictive policy.”

“The club has had and has members of color,” Meaghan McCabe, spokesperson for the senator, said in a statement to the New York Post. “The senator has dedicated his entire career to promoting fairness and protecting civil rights, as his record shows.”

In 2003, a member of Bailey’s told the New York Times the club had Jewish members, but not black members.

Conservatives were quick to criticize Whitehouse’s association with Bailey’s. Donald Trump Jr., the eldest son of the former president, condemned “this racist and segregationist beach club” and demanded “indignation” at the senator’s association with him.

McCabe and another Whitehouse spokesperson did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment. The Beach Club did not answer Insider’s phone calls.

In 2017, Whitehouse told GoLocal that “it would be nice if the members changed a bit” and that he would address diversity issues “in private”.

There is a long history of private clubs excluding blacks and other people of color from their membership. Many golf clubs have also banned female members, and some continue to ban women today.

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