Liberal Democratic Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island is defending his decision to remain a member of an all-white exclusive club in his state, explaining that it’s one of many “traditions” and pledging that the club is working to expand to minorities.
“I think the people who are running the place are still working on that and I’m sorry it hasn’t happened yet,” he said in response to a question from a reporter at GoLocalProv.com.
Pressed for further explanation, Whitehouse added before being rushed away by a staffer, “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.”
It isn’t clear what issues he’s referring to, or what, specifically, the establishment — Bailey’s Beach Club — is doing to attract minorities.
The local outlet reported that Whitehouse pledged in 2006 to quit the elitist club after he won his first U.S. Senate term. He also pledged to leave the all-male, all-white Bellevue Avenue Reading Room.
But the outlet broached the subject again in 2017 because, not only had Whitehouse not quit the club, one of the country’s oldest and most exclusive, but his wife had become one of its majority shareholders.
“I think it would be nice if they (Bailey’s Beach Club) changed a little bit, but it’s not my position,” Whitehouse told the outlet at the time, which added that he was one of then-President Donald Trump’s biggest critics, accusing him of being a bigot and unwilling to condemn hate groups.
Pressed if he would push for more diversity in the club, Whitehouse responded, “I will take that up privately.”
“For Whitehouse and his wife Sandra Thornton, Bailey’s is a way of life — an insular enclave away from Rhode Island and the rest of the world,” GoLocalProv.com reported at the time. “Whitehouse and his wife Sandra own multiple properties, including a $2.7 million, 6 bedroom house off of Ocean Drive in Newport — less than a quarter mile from Bailey’s Beach.”
The outlet also reported that one of Rhode Island’s recent GOP senators, the late John Chafee, a former Navy secretary and Marine Corps officer who fought at Guadalcanal and Okinawa, pledged never to join all-male or all-white clubs.
Whitehouse has spoken out against so-called systemic racism in the country. Following the deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor, he said in a June 4 statement: “We hear the voices of the peaceful protestors who have marched. We can and must do better to root out systemic racism in its many forms.”
But Whitehouse was blasted as a hypocrite on social media.
“I wonder what Joy Reid is going to think of this. She was gushing over Sen. Whitehouse less than a week ago over his dark money crusade when she had him on her show,” Fox News Digital’s Cameron Cawthorne wrote.
“These limousine liberals are-HYPOCRITICAL!” added GOP spokesman and black outreach director Paris Dennard said, adding that billionaire Trump took a different approach.
“@SenWhitehouse defends being a member & investor in All-White RI Club saying: ‘It’s a Long Tradition in RI’ Be a leader & cancel membership! Donald J. Trump sued to force Palm Beach clubs to integrate!” Dennard added.
“It’s long been known they discriminate even if it’s not open policy. …[W]hen you go there, even the staff is white, all Eastern European. It has a creepy old money GET OUT vibe,” Bridget Phetasy noted.
“If this guy was a republican, this story would be all over the main stream media,” said another user.
“I had to look up which party the good Senator belonged to as it was not mentioned in the article. I wonder why that was?” added yet another.