Democratic Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse fends off questions on family's membership in exclusive beach club

Sheldon Whitehouse
(Image credit: Tom Williams-Pool/Getty Images)

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) said Monday that a local report over the weekend about his family's membership in Newport's exclusive Bailey's Beach Club "got the facts wrong," disputing the reporter's characterization of the private club as "all-white." He did not dispute that the club, formally called Spouting Rock Beach Association, caters to the wealthy, but he said the club told him it has "diversity of membership." Pressed on whether he knows that the club has any people of colors as members, Whitehouse said, "I believe that there are. I don't spend a lot of time there."

A reporter for GoLocal Provincetown asked Whitehouse over the weekend about his historic membership in the "all-white" club, and he replied, "I think the people who are running the place are still working on that," and "I'm sorry it hasn't happened yet." Whitehouse spokesman Richard Davidson told The Washington Post on Monday that the club has "no such restrictive policy" on race or ethnicity. "The club has had and has members of color," he said.

Davidson also said GoLocal was wrong that Whitehouse had pledged to quit Bailey's Beach Club in 2006, then transferred his shares to his wife, Sandra, instead. Whitehouse "did not say that," and "recalls transferring his shares to accommodate a club policy of spouses not both being members," Davidson said. Whitehouse's wife is still a member, he added, and the senator, who is not, "has dedicated his entire career to promoting equity and protecting civil rights, as his record shows."

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Peter Weber

Peter Weber is a senior editor at, and has handled the editorial night shift since the website launched in 2008. A graduate of Northwestern University, Peter has worked at Facts on File and The New York Times Magazine. He speaks Spanish and Italian and plays bass and rhythm cello in an Austin rock band. Follow him on Twitter.