Democratic Senator Sheldon Whitehouse is defending his membership at Spouting Rock Beach Association (Bailey’s Beach Club) in Newport, Rhode Island. GoLocal Providence, a local news organization, describes the private beach club as “all-white.”
GoLocal Providence asked the lawmaker if the beach club granted any minorities membership since the first time they reported on the lack of diversity in 2017.
“I think the people who are running the place are still working on that, and I’m sorry it hasn’t happened yet,” Senator Whitehouse said to GoLocal Providence.
Bailey’s Beach Club has “a long tradition of being a family club, and they’re working on improving diversity. I think that’s pretty fair,” Whitehouse said, elaborating on comments he made to the website.
The beach club was established in 1897. The membership was extended to wealthy, aristocratic families, including the Vanderbilts and the Astors. According to a New York Times report from 2003, the club has 468 members and 113 subscribers.
“I think it would be nice if [Bailey’s Beach Club] changed a little bit, but it’s not my position,” the Senator said told GoLocal Providence in 2017.
On Monday, he said GoLocal “got the facts wrong” about the club’s membership and he’d meant to say that there’s “a long tradition of it being a family club.”
Asked if he knew any members who were “diverse,” Whitehouse said, “I believed that there were. I don’t spend a lot of time there, so I couldn’t tell you who the members are.”
Senator Whitehouse says that he will talk privately with the club to discuss the issue.