Democratic senator confronted over membership in elite, all-white beach club: ‘It’s a long tradition’

News & Politics

Democratic Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (R.I.) was confronted Friday about his family’s continued membership in an exclusive, all-white club in Newport, Rhode Island.

In response, Whitehouse defended his membership in the club despite publicly denouncing systemic racial discrimination.

What are the details?

According to GoLocalProv, Whitehouse and his wife are members of the all-white private Bailey’s Beach Club in Newport.

From GoLocalProv:

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Both Whitehouse and his wife Sandra as well as their families have been members of the club for decades. Whitehouse did transfer his shares in the club to his wife years ago, and she is now one of the largest shareholders in the all-white club. The club’s membership is a who’s who Newport, Palm Beach, and New York wealth.

Whitehouse was confronted one day before Juneteenth, the newest federal holiday that annually commemorates the abolition of slavery.

When confronted about the lack of diversity inside the exclusive club, Whitehouse said, “I think the people who are running the place are still working on [diversifying membership] and I’m sorry it hasn’t happened yet.”

The reporter then asked, “Your thoughts on an elite, all-white, wealthy club, again, in this day and age— should these clubs continue to exist?”

“It’s a long tradition in Rhode Island and there are many of them and I think we just need to work our way through the issues, thank you,” Whitehouse responded.

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U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse responds to questions about family’s membership in an all-white club.

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Friday was not the first time the Democratic lawmaker was confronted about his membership in the all-white club. In 2017, Whitehouse said he would not pressure the club to change its demographics.

“I think it would be nice if they (Bailey’s Beach Club) changed a little bit, but it’s not my position,” he said at the time.

Whitehouse’s continued membership at the club comes despite reportedly promising to quit “his memberships in Bailey’s, as well as the all-male, all-white Bellevue Avenue Reading Room” during his campaign for U.S. Senate in 2006, GoLocalProv noted.

Isn’t this hypocritical?

Despite maintaining membership in the all-white club, Whitehouse has not shied away from denouncing racism and systemic discrimination.

Amid racial unrest last summer following the death of George Floyd, Whitehouse said, “Our country is at a crossroads. … We can and must do better to root out systemic racism in its many forms and meet America’s full promise of justice for all.”

Whitehouse even celebrated Juneteenth on social media, one day after he defended his family’s membership in what many would consider a racist entity.

“Across the country, Americans will join their friends and neighbors to celebrate #Juneteenth as a federal holiday. This is a meaningful and historic acknowledgement of our past to help carry us forward toward justice,” Whitehouse said.

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