Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., is defending his family’s membership at a private beach club in Newport, Rhode Island, that is allegedly entirely white, telling reporters that the group is “working on improving diversity.”
Whitehouse said on Monday that Bailey’s Beach Club, which is formally called the Spouting Rock Beach Association, “has informed me that it does in fact have diversity of membership,” according to NBC News.
The club, which was founded over 100 years ago, did not respond to NBC’s requests for comment.
He added that the club has "a long tradition of being a family club, and they're working on improving diversity. I think that's pretty fair."
Last Friday, Whitehouse appeared to brush off a question about his membership in the “all-white” club in an interview with GoLocal Providence, saying, "I think the people who are running the place are still working on that and I’m sorry it hasn't happened yet."
When asked if “elite all-white wealthy clubs” should still be around, the senator said, “It's a long tradition in Rhode Island and there are many of them. I think we just need to work our way through the issues, thank you."
On Monday, Whitehouse claimed that GoLocal “got the facts wrong,” and said what he meant to say was that there is “a long tradition of it being a family club.”
When asked if he knew any of these “diverse” members, the senator said, "I believed that there were. I don't spend a lot of time there, so I couldn't tell you who the members are."
Earlier on Monday, Whitehouse spokesperson Richard Davidson told NBC that Bailey’s Beach Club doesn’t have a “restrictive policy.”
He added that “the club has had and has members of color," and said the senator "has dedicated his entire career to promoting equity and protecting civil rights, as his record shows.”
Prior to his election to the Senate in 2006, Whitehouse vowed to quit his membership in the club, only to end up transferring his shares to his wife. He previously defended keeping his membership in an interview with GoLocal in 2017.
"I think it would be nice if the membership changed a little bit," he said at the time.
When asked if he would push the club to make these changes, Whitehouse said in 2017, "I will take that up privately."
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