Sen. Whitehouse defends family’s membership in private beach club amid questions about whether it is all-White
By Felicia Sonmez,
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) is defending his family’s ties to an exclusive beach club in Rhode Island, amid questions about whether the club’s membership is all-White.
Whitehouse’s family has long belonged to Bailey’s Beach Club, which isformally known as the Spouting Rock Beach Association. The private club is located on Ocean Avenue in Newport, R.I., and has been described as a haven for the Vanderbilts, the Astors and other members of America’s “ruling class.”
In an interview Friday with local news site GoLocal Prov, Whitehouse was asked whether the club has any non-White members.
“I think the people who are running the place are still working on that, and I’m sorry it hasn’t happened yet,” Whitehouse replied.
Pressed on whether he believes such clubs should continue to exist, he told the news outlet: “It’s a long tradition in Rhode Island, and there are many of them. We just need to work our way through the issues.”
A Whitehouse spokesman said Monday that Bailey’s Beach Club has “no such restrictive policy” regarding the race or ethnicity of its members.
“The club has had and has members of color,” said the spokesman, Richard Davidson.
It was unclear Monday whether Whitehouse had at some point said he would leave the club.
According to GoLocal Prov, during his 2006 Senate run, Whitehouse had pledged to leave the elite club. The news site said Whitehouse instead transferred his shares in the club to his wife, who is now one of the club’s largest shareholders.
Davidson on Monday disputed that Whitehouse had pledged to leave the club in 2006.
“The Senator did not say that,” Davidson said in a statement. “The Senator recalls transferring his shares to accommodate a club policy of spouses not both being members.”
Davidson said that while Whitehouse is no longer a member, his wife is. He added that the senator “has dedicated his entire career to promoting equity and protecting civil rights, as his record shows.”
The club’s website states that it provides members and their guests “lunch and dinner service daily, as well as two full service bars, swimming pool, tennis courts, and nearly a 1/4 mile of private beach front.”
A woman who answered the phone at the Spouting Rock Beach Association on Monday afternoon declined to answer questions about its membership. She also declined to put a reporter in touch with anyone who could provide further details, saying only that the club is “a very small beach club” and has “no comment at this time.”
Whitehouse, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, is among the Senate’s most liberal members and has been vocal on issues of racial equity. In a statement earlier this month commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Tulsa Race Massacre, he said, “We must remember the lives and livelihoods lost in that horror, and continue to strive toward racial justice.”