Clay Shaw calls yacht club link 'bunch of hooey'
Former U.S. Rep. E. Clay Shaw Jr. of Fort Lauderdale said Thursday he thought he listed his membership in the Lauderdale Yacht Club on the U.S. Senate questionnaire he sent to Gov. Charlie Crist (he didn't). The 70-year-old Shaw, who served 26 years in Congress before a loss in 2006, dismissed as a nonissue the club's history of being slow to admit women and Jews as members. (The angle is being pushed on reporters by supporters of another Senate candidate amid talk that Crist has decided Shaw is a finalist to replace Mel Martinez).
"I think that's a bunch of hooey," Shaw said. "We've got Jewish members over there. I don't think there's ever been anything in the bylaws of the organization that prohibits any race or religion in there." He agreed the club also was slow to admit women, but said women are now allowed in the club, too.
Shaw said he personally sponsored three Jewish club members: nursing home owner Ralph Marrinson, Karen Unger, a political activist and former aide to Gov. Jeb Bush, and her husband Jason, a lawyer. (Incidentally, Shaw's rivals in his last two congressional races, the victorious Ron Klein and the narrowly unsuccessful Elaine Bloom, are Jewish, yet Shaw's yacht club ties were not an issue in those campaigns).
Club manager Darren Betz said he has been at the club for seven years and is not aware of any discriminatory policies. "We're a nice club with good people," Betz said, referring questions about possible past discrimination to the club's attorney, Bruce Weihe, who could not be reached.
Why didn't Shaw list the LYC connection in answer to a question about membership in clubs with restrictive policies? "I thought I did," he said. "Maybe not." He said he had one day to complete the lengthy questionnaire.
Shaw, 70, vacationing with his wife, Emilie, at their home in Cashiers, N.C., said he planned to return to South Florida this weekend. He said he has heard nothing since his interview with Crist last Monday. "What's the governor going to do?" Shaw asked, repeating the most-oft-heard question in Florida politics over the past few weeks.