Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) on Monday defended his affiliation with an elite Rhode Island beach club, contending that the local news site that first asked him about the club’s lack of non-white members “got the facts wrong.”

Whitehouse told reporters that Bailey’s Beach Club in Newport, Rhode Island, had informed him it did have “diversity of membership.” When asked whether he knew if the club counted any people of color as members, the senator added: “I believe that there are. I don’t spend a lot of time there.”

Controversy over the Whitehouse family’s membership at Bailey’s flared over the weekend after GoLocalProv, a local news site, asked the Democrat about his family’s involvement with the beach club. A GoLocalProv reporter described the club as having an “all-white” membership in a brief interview with Whitehouse and pressed him about whether any non-white members were recently admitted.

Whitehouse told the news site that “I think the people who are running the place are still working on” adding new members of color “and I’m sorry it hasn’t happened yet.”

When pressed on whether clubs like Bailey’s should “continue to exist,” Whitehouse told GoLocalProv that “it’s a long tradition in Rhode Island, and there are many of them. We just need to work our way through the issues.”

According to GoLocalProv, Whitehouse and his wife Sandra had long been members at Bailey’s, though he transferred his shares in the club to his wife after making a campaign-trail promise to quit the club. The senator said Monday that he did not recall when he transferred his shares in the club to his family.

Asked about any discrepancy between his comments to GoLocalProv and his Monday evening remarks, Whitehouse said he had reconciled the two positions.

“They have a long tradition of being a family club, and they’re working on improving diversity,” Whitehouse said of Bailey’s. “That’s pretty fair.”

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