Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) on Wednesday apologized for failing to acknowledge the lack of diversity of an exclusive beach club in Newport, Rhode Island, amid furor over his remarks last week that seemed to confirm a local reporter’s characterization of the club as “all-white.”
After reaffirming that he will not resign from the beach club, Whitehouse said in a statement on Wednesday that the uproar that ensued when a reporter asked him about his membership forced him to “assess all my affiliations and to consider whether any involve inequitable or exclusionary policies.”
Whitehouse then expressed remorse for being part of a sailing club that lacks diversity.
“I do own a boat and belong to a sailing club in Newport. While this club does not have exclusionary rules for membership, it does lack diversity,” Whitehouse said. “Failing to address the sailing club’s lack of diversity is squarely on me, and something for which I am sorry.”
Whitehouse added that he is committed to “working with the club and the community” to build a “more inclusive membership.”
In the past week, Whitehouse has come under fire for his membership at the ritzy Bailey’s Beach Club, which the New York Times described in a 2003 report as an exclusive mostly white club.
Last week, Whitehouse appeared apologetic when a local reporter characterized the club as “all-white.”
“I think the people who are running the place are still working on that, and I’m sorry it hasn’t happened yet,” Whitehouse said.
Whitehouse tried to walk back his initial comment on Monday by telling NBC 10 that the alleged “whites only” policy never existed in the first place.
On Wednesday, Whitehouse said that he mistakenly accepted the local reporter’s characterization of the beach club being “all-white” because he “wasn’t prepared for the question.”
“I then checked the assertion and was assured that, first, the assertion was wrong, there is diversity in the membership and there are non-white club members; and second, that improving diversity remains a priority and an active task for the club’s new board,” Whitehouse said on Wednesday.
Whitehouse said that he will not urge his family to resign from the club, which his wife is one of the top shareholders of.
The beach club attempted to clean up the backlash by denying discriminatory policies in a statement issued Wednesday.
“Recent characterizations in the press and in other commentary about Baileys Beach club are inaccurate and false,” the club said. “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.”