On Friday, Rhode Island Democrat Senator Sheldon Whitehouse — who had slammed former President Trump for “toiling to deepen the fault lines in American life” and claimed, “We can and must do better to root out systemic racism in its many forms and meet America’s full promise of justice for all” — was asked about his membership in what a reporter referred to as an all-white private Bailey’s Beach Club in Newport, Rhode Island.
Whitehouse had told GoLocal’s News Editor Kate Nagle in 2017, “I think it would be nice if they (Bailey’s Beach Club) changed a little bit, but it’s not my position,” then was questioned whether he would urge the club to push for diversity at the all-white club. He answered, “I will take that up privately.”
On Friday, GoLocal caught up with Whitehouse again, this time asking, “Back in 2017, you had expressed concerns about the membership of the all-white Bailey’s Beach Club. You said that you hoped it would become more diverse. Now, your family’s been members; your wife is one of the largest shareholders. Has there been any traction in that? Are there any minority members of the club now?”
“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.
On June 23, however, the beach club referred to the allegations about it in the media as false.
“Recent characterizations in the press and in other commentary about Baileys Beach Club are inaccurate and false,” the club told 12 News in a statement, reports WPRI.
“Over many years, Club members and their families have included people of many racial, religious, and ethnic backgrounds from around the world who come to Newport every summer,” said the statement. “Our membership comes from all over the globe to our small club and we welcome the diversity of view and background they bring to our community.”
A spokesperson for Whitehouse also told the Washington Post on Monday that the club does not restrict membership on the basis of race, and “has had and has members of color.” The spokesperson also disputed that Whitehouse is still a member of the club, but said that his wife is a member.
During the interaction Friday, GoLocal pressed, “Do you have concerns in 2021? Obviously, it’s been four years; you had remarks on the floor following the death of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, saying, hoping to root out systemic racism in the country. Your thoughts on an elite, all-white, wealthy club, again, in this day and age: should these clubs continue to exist?”
“It’s a long tradition in Rhode Island and there are many of them,” Whitehouse replied. “I think we just need to work our way through the issues.”
Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D) defends his membership at an all-white private beach club
“It’s a long tradition in Rhode Island” pic.twitter.com/Rz2PshR20q
— Jewish Deplorable (@TrumpJew2) June 20, 2021
On June 4, 2020, Whitehouse issued a statement accusing Trump of “deepening” racial divisions:
Our country is at a crossroads. A nation reeling from a pandemic and an economic catastrophe that have disproportionately affected communities of color is mourning the tragic deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and so many others. All the while, President Trump is toiling to deepen the fault lines in American life. We hear the voices of the peaceful protestors who have marched. We can and must do better to root out systemic racism in its many forms and meet America’s full promise of justice for all.
“Both Whitehouse and his wife Sandra as well as their families have been members of the club for decades. Whitehouse did transfer his shares in the club to his wife years ago, and she is now one of the largest shareholders in the all-white club. The club’s membership is a who’s who Newport, Palm Beach, and New York wealth,” Go Local noted, adding, “Bailey’s Beach Club is not an average private club — it has been described as the most exclusive club in America.”
This article has been revised for clarity and updated to include comment from the beach club and additional comment from Whitehouse’s team. The title has been amended.