Beach club linked to Sheldon Whitehouse denies reports that it's all-white

Bailey’s Beach Club, which counts Sen. Sheldon WhitehouseSheldon WhitehouseDemocrats draw red lines in spending fight What Republicans should demand in exchange for raising the debt ceiling Climate hawks pressure Biden to replace Fed chair MORE (D-R.I.) as one of its members, is pushing back against what it’s calling “inaccurate and false” reporting that it’s an “all-white” establishment.

The exclusive beach club in Newport, R.I., broke its silence Wednesday in a statement to The Providence Journal explaining that its members have included “people of many racial, religious and ethnic backgrounds.”

The statement came after several news organizations raised red flags over Whitehouse’s membership in the club.

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The controversy stemmed from a video published by GoLocalProv News, a digital news site, over the weekend in which Whitehouse is asked about his membership in what the videographer characterizes as an “all-white” club.

Fox News pounced on Whitehouse Monday for having “refused to apologize for his family’s membership in a reportedly all-White beach club.” 

The New York Post also jumped on the story with a headline claiming “Sheldon Whitehouse under fire for membership at all-white Rhode Island beach club.”

Politico Playbook on Sunday picked up the GoLocalProv News story with an excerpt reporting that Whitehouse “continues to defend his family’s membership in the all-white private Bailey’s Beach Club in Newport.”

The storyline gained more steam on Tuesday when The Washington Post wrote two stories about Whitehouse’s beach club membership, with one headline raising “The big questions on Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse and the allegedly ‘all-White’ beach club” and another stating that “Whitehouse defends family’s membership in private beach club amid questions whether it is all-White.”

The club, which is also known as the Spouting Rock Beach Association, helped fuel the controversy by staying silent for three days.

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It finally spoke up on Wednesday by providing a statement to The Providence Journal’s Amy Russo. 

“Recent characterizations in the press and in other commentary about Baileys Beach club are inaccurate and false. 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. 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,” the statement read.

Whitehouse didn’t help his own cause when he was asked recently on camera by GoLocal News editor Kate Nagle about his membership in the club. 

Nagle asked Whitehouse about what she called “the all-white Bailey’s Beach Club” and whether there are any minority members in the club now.

The senator responded in an ambiguous way, suggesting lack of diversity was still a problem. 

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

When asked a follow-up question characterizing Bailey’s as “an elite, all-white, wealthy club” and wondering “should these clubs continue to exist,” Whitehouse responded, “It’s a long tradition in Rhode Island, and there are many of them. We just need to work our way through the issues.”

A Whitehouse spokesman on Monday later clarified the exchange by pointing out to The Washington Post, “The club has had and has members of color.”

And Whitehouse himself later told NBC10 that “there is no discriminatory policy” at the club and that it “had and does have a membership of color.”