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Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse during an April Senate Judiciary Committee hearing in Washington, D.C. Photographer: Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) on Monday defended his family's membership to a private Rhode Island beach club that was reported to have all-white members and told reporters the club is "working on improving diversity" and has members of color.

Why it matters: Whitehouse has spoken out against systemic racism following the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and others.

  • Richard Davidson, a spokesperson for Whitehouse, said the club has no "restrictive policy."
  • "The club confirmed for the senator that it has had and has members of color.  The senator is not a member himself and is not familiar with many members of the club," Davidson said. "The senator has dedicated his entire career to promoting equity and protecting civil rights, as his record strongly shows." 
  • According to Go Local Providence, which first asked the senator about the club, Whitehouse transferred his membership to his wife years ago though she is "now one of the largest shareholders in the all-white club."

Driving the news: When Go Local first reported of his family's membership at the elite Bailey’s Beach Club in 2017, he told the news outlet he thought "it would be nice if they changed a little bit, but it's not my position." He pledged to raise the matter privately.

  • When asked again by Go Local last Friday about the club, that's officially titled the Spouting Rock Beach Association, Whitehouse said: "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."
  • Whitehouse told reporters the "tradition" he was referring to was that it was a family club. He also insisted that "the club has informed me that it does in fact have diversity of membership," per NBC.
  • The Spouting Rock Beach Association did not immediately respond to Axios' requests for comment.

Editor's note: This post has been updated with a comment from Sen. Whitehouse's spokesperson and has been updated throughout.

Go deeper

Jul 29, 2021 - Axios Tampa Bay

Tampa police in hot water over "fake operation" at strip club

Photo: Ben Montgomery/Axios

The Tampa Police Department is in some more hot water.

  • A Citizens Review Board hearing this week, first reported by Fox 13, resulted in the discipline of Sgt. Daniel Rhodes, who was accused of running a "fake operation" to "blow money and have fun" at a strip club last year.

Why it matters: The finding comes at an especially turbulent time for TPD, which has been criticized for its increased use of force and chemical agents while nabbing the biggest budget increase among all U.S. metro areas.

Updated 52 mins ago - Science

Nor'easter slams East Coast with flooding rain and powerful winds

A residential area in Middlesex County as floodwater from the nor'easter covers streets in New Jersey on Tuesday. Photo: Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

A monster storm was slamming the Northeast with record rainfall and powerful winds over Tuesday night — causing flash flooding that resulted in people having to be rescued in New Jersey and New York roads to close.

Threat level: All of southern New England westward to New York City and northern New Jersey was under the threat of flash flooding and coastal flooding from the nor'easter through Tuesday night into early Wednesday, per the National Weather Service.

57 mins ago - World

Blinken speaks with Sudan prime minister after his release

Sudan's Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdok. Photo: Ebrahim Hamid/AFP via Getty Images

Secretary of State Tony Blinken spoke on the phone on Tuesday evening with Sudan’s Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok after the military released him from custody.

Why it matters: Hamdok’s release was a result of pressure on Sudan’s military leader General Abdul Fattah al-Burhan from the U.S. and other countries but also from the different political parties in Sudan and massive protests in the streets.