What is Ida Lewis Yacht Club? Dem Senator Sheldon Whitehouse refuses to quit all-White club
Democratic Senator Sheldon Whitehouse was criticized recently for his connection with Bailey's Beach Club — an association with seemingly no Black members. He has drawn more controversy after it emerged that now he is part of another all-White club as well and continues to defend the club despite backlash. Whitehouse, a senator from Rhode Island, has earned the displeasure of liberal politicians from the region. He has promised to make the club more diverse and inclusive but won't resign, he says.
The Ida Lewis Yacht Club in Newport officially designates itself as "a family-oriented club of members who actively participate in yachting activities." Following the backlash, 65-year-old Whitehouse did not reveal his membership, rather the club confirmed the same to Fox News. The outlet also discovered that the senator's family has been associated with the yacht club for decades — starting from his grandfather Edwin Sheldon Whitehouse who was the 'commodore' of the club from 1937 to 1940.
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Acknowledging his association with the controversial institution that lacks any Black members, Senator Whitehouse said in a statement to Fox News, "While I am not a member of the beach club, 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."
He further added, "There have been calls for me to resign from the club, which I understand. However, I have no membership to resign, nor will I ask my wife or any other family members to do so."
The veteran politician also issued an apology for the lack of racial diversity at the club and promised to change the scenario in the near future. "Failing to address the sailing club's lack of diversity is squarely on me, and something for which I am sorry. I commit to working with the club and the community to build a more inclusive membership and to better connect with the local community."
Amid the controversy, an old video from 2017 featuring Whitehouse has surfaced online, which shows him hoping to accept minority members as part of the club. At the time, he had said that it would be nice if the membership changed a little but clarified that it was not his discretion. "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 about the issue on Tuesday, June 22.
He further informed that all-White clubs continue to exist in Rhode Island and it would need the political leadership to work towards changing the scene.
Meanwhile, the Ida Lewis Yacht Club claimed that it was 'inaccurate and false' to state that they do not have any non-White members. "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," the club noted in a statement.