Rhode Island Democratic Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse has retained his family membership in an all-White social club despite saying years ago he intended to resign and that his office said Monday does have minority members.
When confronted Friday on camera by a local news media reporter and asked about the membership he reportedly said he would quit in 2017, Mr. Whitehouse, a progressive voice in the Senate, confirmed the club has no minority members.
“I think the people running the place are still working on that, and I’m sorry it hasn’t happened yet,” he said.
Mr. Whitehouse’s wife, Sandra, appears to be one of the people “running the place” as she is identified by the reporter without correction as “one of its largest shareholders.” The story and video were first reported by GolocalProv.com, an online news organization in Providence.
After noting Mr. Whitehouse has decried the presence of systemic racism in the U.S. and pledged to unroot it, the reporter also asked Mr. Whitehouse if he thought “in this day and age, elite, all-White, wealthy clubs should continue to exist?”
“It’s a long tradition in Rhode Island, and they’re many of them,” Mr. Whitehouse replied. “And we just need to work our way through the issues. Thank you.”
The senator is a member of Bailey’s Beach Club, which is part of the Spouting Rock Beach Association in Newport. A former Rhode Island state attorney general, Mr. Whitehouse has been in the Senate since 2007 and is next up for reelection in 2024.
Mr. Whitehouse reportedly said he would resign his membership in the segregated club when he was first elected in 2006, and he repeated that pledge when pressed in 2017, according to the GolocalProv.com report.
On Monday, a spokesperson for Mr. Whitehouse said the club does not exclude Blacks and other minorities.
“The club has no such restrictive policy. The club has had and has members of color,” Meaghan McCabe said. “The senator has dedicated his entire career to promoting equity and protecting civil rights, as his record shows.”
Last June, Mr. Whitehouse was one of many Democrats in Congress who made a show of kneeling in the U.S. Capitol in what they called a show of respect for George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor, African-Americans who had died at the hands of police.
The photo-op came at a time when several American cities were gripped by protests that in some cases turned violent and left parts of some neighborhoods in flames.
“We hear the voices of the peaceful protestors who have marched,” Mr. Whitehousetweeted at the time. “We can and must do better to root out systemic racism in its many forms and meet America’s promise of justice for all.”
• James Varney can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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