Senator Sheldon Whitehouse has a membership at ‘all-white’ beach club


Democratic Senator Sheldon Whitehouse comes under fire for dismissing his family’s long-term membership at an exclusive ‘all-white’ beach club as a ‘long tradition in Rhode Island’ despite vowing to take up the issue of diversity with it in 2017

  • Sheldon Whitehouse and his family have been members of the exclusive Bailey’s Beach Club in Newport for at least two decades 
  • The 65-year-old progressive senator was confronted by a GoLocal Providence reporter on Friday about his family’s membership at the club
  • When asked if the club was now accepting minority members, Whitehouse said he believed the owners were ‘working on that’
  • When asked if all-white clubs should still exist in 2021, Whitehouse said: ‘It’s a long tradition in Rhode Island’ 
  • Despite Whitehouse’s comments, his office on Monday denied that the club is discriminatory and has no minority members 
  • It was not immediately clear how many minority members, if any, the club currently has 

Democratic Senator Sheldon Whitehouse has come under fire after he dismissed his long-term family membership at an exclusive and reportedly all-white beach club as ‘a long tradition in Rhode Island‘.

The 65-year-old progressive senator and his family have been members of the exclusive Bailey’s Beach Club in Newport for at least two decades.

Whitehouse was confronted by a GoLocal Providence reporter on Friday about his family’s membership at the club and was asked if it was now accepting minority members.

‘I think the people who are running the place are still working on that and I’m sorry it hasn’t happened yet,’ he said. 

When asked if all-white clubs should still exist in 2021, 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.’ 

Rhode Island Democratic Senator Sheldon Whitehouse was confronted by a GoLocal Providence reporter on Friday about his family’s membership at the exclusive and predominately white Bailey’s Beach Club in Newport

He refused to answer any further questions. 

Despite Whitehouse’s comments, his office on Monday denied that the club, which is run by the Spouting Rock Beach Association, is discriminatory and has no minority members. 

‘The club has no such restrictive policies. The club has had and has members of color,’ his spokesman said.  

It was not immediately clear how many minority members, if any, the club currently has.

In a 2003 New York Times profile, when asked about the demographics of the club, a life-long member was quoted in the profile saying: ‘Jewish, yes… Blacks, not really.’ 

When Whitehouse was elected back in 2006, he allegedly said he would quit the club. 

The local news outlet revealed in 2017 that Whitehouse was still a member but had transferred his shares to his wife Sandra Thornton Whitehouse.

His wife, who he has been married to for 35 years and shares two children with, is one of the top shareholders in the club and is said to visit daily during the summer.  

‘I think it would be nice if they changed a little bit, but it’s not my position,’ Whitehouse said back in 2017.

He vowed at the time to take up the issue of diversity at the club ‘privately’.

The 65-year-old progressive senator and his family have been members of the exclusive Bailey's Beach Club in Newport (above) for at least two decades

The 65-year-old progressive senator and his family have been members of the exclusive Bailey’s Beach Club in Newport (above) for at least two decades

Whitehouse, his wife Sandra Thornton Whitehouse and their families have been members of the club for decades

The senator transferred his shares in the club to his several years back

Whitehouse, his wife Sandra Thornton Whitehouse and their families have been members of the club for decades. The senator transferred his shares in the club to his several years back

When Whitehouse was elected back in 2006, he allegedly said he would quit the club. The local news outlet revealed in 2017 that Whitehouse was still a member but had transferred his shares to his wife Sandra Thornton Whitehouse

When Whitehouse was elected back in 2006, he allegedly said he would quit the club. The local news outlet revealed in 2017 that Whitehouse was still a member but had transferred his shares to his wife Sandra Thornton Whitehouse

The club has long been considered elite and has been described as one of the most exclusive clubs in the US. 

It was frequented by the likes of President John F. Kennedy in the early 60s. 

Today, its website can only be accessed by members.  

The New York Times profile noted that club lacked diversity. 

‘Diversity, of course, has made scant inroads on the Newport of Bailey’s Beach, whose membership profile might be defined less by who people are than what they are not,’ the profile read. 

The profile noted that the biracial grandchildren of a member sometimes visited the club. 

Whitehouse has spoken out repeatedly against racial injustice, particularly in the wake of the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. 

He was also a critic of President Trump and accused him of deepening fault lines in the US.   

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