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Sen. Whitehouse Disputes ‘All-White’ Club Characterization: ‘I Think They Got The Facts Wrong’

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WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 14: U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) questions Supreme Court nominee Judge Amy Coney Barrett as she testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee on the third day of her Supreme Court confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill on October 14, 2020 in Washington, DC. Barrett was nominated by President Donald Trump to fill the vacancy left by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg who passed away in September.
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Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) defended his affiliation with an exclusive club on Monday, telling reporters that he believes the journalist who described the club to him as having “all white” membership was likely incorrect. 

“I think they got the facts wrong,” Whitehouse told Capitol Hill reporters on Monday evening, also adding, the club “informs me that it does, in fact, have diversity” in its membership, CBS News reported. In a separate statement, a spokesperson for Whitehouse told The Washington Post that the club doesn’t restrict membership by race and “has had and has members of color.”

On June 23, the beach club also referred to the allegations about it in the media as false.

“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.”

The Rhode Island senator’s response comes days after his exchange with a local reporter, who asked him about his family’s affiliation with Bailey’s Beach House. In a video of the exchange, the exclusive club, formally known as Spouting Rock Beach Association, according to The Washington Post, was described by the reporter as “all white.”

REPORTER: Back in 2017, you had expressed concerns about the membership of the all white Baily’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.

Whitehouse said Monday he didn’t mean to suggest his “long tradition” comment was a response to the reporter’s “all white” remark, per NBC News. Rather, Whitehouse says he was referring to the “long tradition of it being a family run club,” of which he said there are many in Rhode Island.

“Both Whitehouse and his wife Sandra as well as their families have been members of the club for decades,” reported GoLocalProv, the local news outlet that first reported the story. “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 [of] Newport, Palm Beach, and New York wealth.”

This article has been updated to include comment from the beach club. 

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