A Democratic US senator has been called out for belonging to a private club whose membership is allegedly all white.
Sheldon Whitehousesaid on Friday he was “sorry” that Bailey's Beach Club in Newport, Rhode Island, was refusing to accept Black and minority members, and that it was “still working on” it. He described the club as a Rhode Island “tradition”.
When he was confronted in 2017 about his membership, Mr Whitehouse told GoLocal Providence: "I think it would be nice if they changed a little bit, but it's not my position”.
The admission angered Democrats and critics of the senator, who has recently spoken out about systemic racism in the US.
Gary Dantzler, the executive director of Black Lives Matter Rhode Island, accused Mr Whitehouse of “hypocrisy” for belonging to Bailey’s Beach Club.
“I am ashamed of Senator Whitehouse and his affiliation with this racist club,” Mr Dantzler said in a statement to GoLocal Providence. “Him coming out and speaking about ending systemic racism while belonging to a ‘whites only’ private club is hypocrisy as it worst”.
“We need to put an end to this good ole boy mentality and hold our elected officials accountable,” added Mr Dantzler of Mr Whitehouse’s membership.
“Black Lives Matter Rhode Island expects the Senator to call this what it is; Jim Crow era racism that’s been lingering around the Black community like a plague. It’s time for real change and equity”.
Donald Trump Jr, the eldest son of former US president Donald Trump, was among many critics of Black Lives Matter and Democrats to seize on the senator’s membership of Bailey’s Beach Club.
“Has Sheldon Whitehouse resigned from this racist & segregationist beach club yet?” asked an outraged Mr Trump, who added: “Where's the outrage?!?”
Burgess Owens, in an attack on Democrats for opposing the introduction of stricter voting ID requirements, wrote on Twitter: “Voter ID is Jim Crow, but all-white beach clubs are just ‘tradition’... Seem backwards to anyone else?”
That came after Kate Kendell, an activist and the former executive director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, told her Twitter followers: “You guys…the Sheldon Whitehouse thing is…not ok.”
“Everything else can also be true. But this is not acceptable,” Ms Kendell added.
Other commentators, careful not to defend Mr Whitehouse, tweeted that attacks by Republicans were because of the senator’s attempts to rid so-called dark money from Congress.
“In case you were wondering what this latest GOP smear attempt against Sheldon Whitehouse is all about, I assure you: it's not about his exclusive beach club membership,” wrote Anee Vanderpool, a reporter, on Twitter.
“It's about McConnell trying to stop Whitehouse's bill to ban dark money from politics”.