Democrat Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (RI) faced backlash after he defended belonging to an allegedly “all-white” private beach club in Rhode Island last week right before Juneteenth.
“Both Whitehouse and his wife Sandra as well as their families have been members of [the all-white private Bailey’s Beach Club in Newport] for decades,” GoLocalProv reported. “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 defended his membership in the alleged all-white club when confronted by a reporter on Friday, saying that it was “a long tradition in Rhode Island.” A spokesperson for Whitehouse also told The Washington Post that the club does not restrict membership on the basis of race, and “has had and has members of color.”
On June 23, the beach club called the media reports about it inaccurate.
“Recent characterizations in the press and in other commentary about Baileys Beach Club are inaccurate and false,” the club told 12 News in a statement, reports WPRI.
“Over many years, Club members and their families have included people of many racial, religious, and ethnic backgrounds from around the world who come to Newport every summer,” said the statement. “Our membership comes from all over the globe to our small club and we welcome the diversity of view and background they bring to our community.”
Whitehouse had the following interaction with the reporter on Friday:
REPORTER: Back in 2017, you had expressed concerns about the membership of the all white Bally’s Beach Club, you said that you hoped it would become more diverse. Now your family’s been members, your wife is one of the largest shareholders. Has there been any traction in that? Are there any minority members of the club now?
WHITEHOUSE: I think the people who are running the place are still working on that. And I’m sorry, it hasn’t happened yet.
REPORTER: Do you have concerns in 2021? I mean, obviously, it’s been four years, you had remarks on the floor following the death of Briana Taylor and George Floyd saying, you know, hoping to root out systemic racism in the country. Your thoughts on an elite all white wealthy club again in this day and age, you know, should these clubs continue to exist?
WHITEHOUSE: 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.
WATCH: Democrat Senator Sheldon Whitehouse defends belonging to a whites-only beach club.
“It’s a long tradition in Rhode Island.”
— RNC Research (@RNCResearch) June 21, 2021
Whitehouse was slammed online by commentators from across the political spectrum.
“Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse is a member of a whites-only beach club, the Gov of Virginia either wore black face or a Ku Klux Klan robe, and Joe Biden said he didn’t want his kids to grow up in a racial jungle,” Fox News contributor Lisa Boothe said. “But Democrats want to lecture about racism in America …”
“I wouldn’t exactly say Sen. Whitehouse seems particularly concerned or even interested about the fact he continues to belong an all-white club (which his wife owns a large part of),” leftist Glenn Greenwald said. “As always, judge a person by the acts that compose their life, not the public rhetoric they spew.”
“So Dem senators defend their all-white private beach clubs,” Newsmax host Steve Cortes said. “But we America First nationalists — we’re the racists — for insisting on protecting the American working class (much of which is black and brown citizens) against illegal immigrant workers?”
Former White House Senior Adviser Stephen Miller said, “Nothing is preventing @SenWhitehouse from voluntarily giving up his membership in favor of a deserving minority family—unless Whitehouse believes he’s entitled to his membership in a private beach club?”
This article has been updated to include comment from the beach club.