Senator on Club Membership: 'I Don't Spend a Lot of Time There'

RI Dem Sheldon Whitehouse is in the hot seat again about his ties to an allegedly 'all white' Newport club
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 22, 2021 10:25 AM CDT
Democratic Senator Fields Questions on Ties to Elite Club
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-RI, questions then-Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett during her confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington on Oct. 14, 2020.   (Andrew Caballero-Reynolds via AP)

A Democratic senator from Rhode Island is playing defense after he was grilled this week about his family's long-standing membership at an exclusive beach club. GoLocal Providence describes Bailey's Beach Club in Newport—which has had Sheldon Whitehouse, his wife, and other relatives as members for decades—as a "who's who [of] Newport, Palm Beach, and New York wealth," but also one that's "all white." On Friday, the outlet asked Whitehouse about the club, formally known as the Spouting Rock Beach Association, including whether it has accepted any minorities since the last time the outlet broached the subject with Whitehouse nearly four years ago. "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, adding that the club is "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."

In 2017, Whitehouse told the outlet he thought "it would be nice if [the club] changed a little bit, but it's not my position." Per GoLocal, Whitehouse had vowed during his 2006 Senate run to exit the club, though his rep, Richard Davidson, told the Washington Post that promise was never made. Whitehouse did transfer his club shares to his wife, Sandra (now one of the club's biggest shareholders), and he's no longer himself a member, Davidson added. He went on to say that the club "has had and has members of color," and that there is "no such restrictive policy" on members' race or ethnicity. On Monday, Whitehouse said the club had told him it had "diversity of membership," per Politico. When pressed on whether the club had minorities as members, Whitehouse said, "I believe that there are. I don't spend a lot of time there." A woman who answered the phone at the club would only tell the Post it was "a very small beach club," with no further comment. (More Sheldon Whitehouse stories.)

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