Senator Sheldon Whitehouse responds to questions about affiliation with elite private club

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Senator Sheldon Whitehouse responded Monday evening to questions on his affiliation with an elite private club in Newport, Rhode Island, that an area news site, GoLocal Providence, characterizes as “all-white.” the location had interviewed the Democratic lawmaker Friday and asked if Bailey’s Beach Club had admitted any minorities since GoLocal first reported on the matter in 2017. He responded, “I think the people that are running the place are still performing on that, and I am sorry it hasn’t happened yet.”

But on Monday, Whitehouse told Capitol Hill reporters, “Yeah, I feel they got the facts wrong” when asked to reply to the questions raised by GoLocal about the racial makeup of the club. He went on to mention the club “informs me that it does, in fact, have a diversity of membership.” Pressed on whether he was conscious of any members of Bailey’s Beach Club who are diverse, Whitehouse responded, “I believed that there have been — I do not spend tons of your time there; I could not tell you who the members are.”

Spouting Rock Beach Association, the formal name of Bailey’s Beach Club, describes itself within the employment section of its website as “an exclusive private beach club” with “nearly a 1/4 mile of personal beachfront,” a swimming bath and tennis courts, and two full-service bars. Established in 1897, club membership consisted of the wealthiest families on the Gold Coast, including the Vanderbilts and therefore the Astors; 100 years after the founding of the club, membership was still exceedingly difficult to get, as portrayed during a 2003 NY Times profile of the club.  Then, the days noted, Bailey’s had 468 members and 113 subscribers, with 80 cabanas and 201 changing rooms that would be purchased by members then passed down from generation to generation — making turnover among its members very rare.

Now, Whitehouse says he’s not a member of the club. GoLocal Providence reported that he gave his membership shares to his wife, Sandra, years ago. On Monday, asked about when he consolidated the membership to his family, he replied, “Don’t recall.” When GoLocal first raised the difficulty of the club membership’s racial makeup in 2017, Whitehouse told the outlet, “I think it might be nice if [Bailey’s Beach Club] changed a touch bit, but it isn’t my position.” He also said he would take up the matter “privately” with the club.

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