Democratic Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse says his family's exclusive beach club has 'diversity in membership' amid claims it is all-white

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Democratic Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse says his family's exclusive beach club has 'diversity in membership' amid claims it is all-white
Sheldon Whitehouse. Win McNamee/Getty Images
  • Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, of Rhode Island is under fire for his family's membership at a beach club.
  • Whitehouse, a Democrat, said the exclusive club was "still working on" retaining nonwhite members.
  • On Monday, he told reporters the oceanfront club "does in fact have diversity in membership."

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, a Rhode Island Democrat, is under fire for his family's membership at an exclusive Newport beach club over questions about whether the club has an all-white membership.

This weekend, the news outlet GoLocal Providence sparked renewed questions about Whitehouse's association with Bailey's Beach Club, in which the senator's wife has a large ownership stake. In 2017, GoLocal reported Whitehouse said he would leave the club while he was running for office in 2006. Instead, the senator reportedly transferred his stake to his wife.

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

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"I think the people who are running the place are still working on that, and I'm sorry it hasn't happened yet," he said in response.

On Monday, Whitehouse told reporters the club isn't all-white.

"The club informs me that it does in fact have diversity in membership," Whitehouse said, adding that he is no longer a member.

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When asked whether "elite, all-white, wealthy clubs" should continue to exist, the senator said there's a "long tradition" of these types of organizations in his home state.

"We just need to work our way through the issues," he said.

Whitehouse's staff insisted on Monday the beach club isn't all-white and "has no such restrictive policy."

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"The club has had and has members of color," Meaghan McCabe, a spokeswoman for the senator, said in a statement to The New York Post. "The senator has dedicated his entire career to promoting equity 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 former president's eldest son, condemned "this racist & segregationist beach club" and demanded "outrage" over the senator's association with it.

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McCabe and another spokesman for Whitehouse didn't immediately respond to Insider's request for comment. The Beach Club didn't answer Insider's phone calls.

In 2017, Whitehouse told GoLocal that "it would be nice if the membership changed a little bit" and that he would take up any issues of diversity "privately."

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

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