Senator Sheldon Whitehouse responded Monday evening to questions about his affiliation with an elite private club in Newport, Rhode Island, that a local news site, GoLocal Providence, characterizes as “all-white.”
The site 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 who are running the place are still working on that, and I’m sorry it hasn’t happened yet.”
But on Monday, Whitehouse told Capitol Hill reporters, “Yeah, I think they got the facts wrong” when asked to respond to the questions raised by GoLocal about the racial makeup of the club.
He went on to say the club “informs me that it does, in fact, have diversity of membership.”
Pressed on whether he was aware of any members of Bailey’s Beach Club who are diverse, Whitehouse responded, “I believed that there were — I don’t spend a lot of time there; I couldn’t tell you who the members are.”
Spouting Rock Beach Association, the formal name of Bailey’s Beach Club, describes itself in the employment section of its website as “an exclusive private beach club” with “nearly a 1/4 mile of private beach front,” a swimming pool 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 the Astors; 100 years after the founding of the club, membership was still exceedingly difficult to obtain, as portrayed in a 2003 New York Times profile of the club. Then, the Times noted, Bailey’s had 468 members and 113 subscribers, with 80 cabanas and 201 changing rooms that could be purchased by members and then passed down from generation to generation — making turnover among its members very rare.
Now, Whitehouse says he is no longer 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 issue of the club membership’s racial makeup in 2017, Whitehouse told the outlet, “I think it would be nice if [Bailey’s Beach Club] changed a little bit, but it’s not my position.” He also said he would take up the matter “privately” with the club.