Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse defends membership in exclusive beach club: 'A long tradition in Rhode Island'

·Senior Writer
·2-min read

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., who has been one of the most outspoken senators on the issue of systemic racism, was questioned by a local news reporter over the weekend about his family’s longtime membership in a private beach club described as “all white.”

In Pawtucket, R.I., Friday, Whitehouse was approached by a reporter from GoLocalProv.com who asked if Bailey’s Beach Club in Newport had admitted any minority members since the publication first asked the senator about it in 2017.

“I think the people who are running the place are still working on that,” Whitehouse replied. “And I’m sorry it hasn’t happened yet.”

Pressed about the apparent hypocrisy of his vocal condemnation of systemic racism while maintaining a decades-long membership in the exclusive club, 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.”

A spokeswoman for the senator said Monday that the club “has no such restrictive policy.”

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse speaks to a reporter in Pawtucket, R.I., Friday. (Via GoLocal/YouTube)
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse speaks to a reporter in Pawtucket, R.I., Friday. (via GoLocal/YouTube)

“The club has had and has members of color,” Meaghan McCabe, Whitehouse’s senior communications adviser, told Yahoo News. “The senator has dedicated his entire career to promoting equity and protecting civil rights, as his record shows.”

In January, Whitehouse introduced a bill to establish a commission to study and develop reparation proposals for African Americans.

“The commission shall examine slavery and discrimination in the colonies and the United States from 1619 to the present and recommend appropriate remedies,” reads the proposed bill, which was referred to the Judiciary Committee.

According to its website, Bailey’s Beach Club, also known as Spouting Rock Beach Association, is an exclusive private club that offers 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.”

According to GoLocalProv.com, Whitehouse and his wife have been members of the club for decades, and his wife is one of its largest shareholders.

In a 2003 New York Times profile, a lifelong member was asked about the club’s membership.

“Jewish, yes,” the member replied. “Blacks, not really.”

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