VIDEO: U.S. Senator Whitehouse Won’t Quit All-White Exclusive Private Club

Thursday, August 31, 2017
GoLocal News Team

Kate Nagle catches up with U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse
GoLocalProv.com News Editor Kate Nagle finally caught up with U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) to ask him about his family’s membership in the exclusive and all-white Bailey’s Beach Club.

In 2006, when Whitehouse ran for the United States Senate, he reportedly promised to quit his memberships in Bailey's, as well as the all-male, all-white Bellevue Avenue Reading Room. 

However, eleven years later, a GoLocal investigation has uncovered that Whitehouse has consolidated his ownership with his wife in Bailey's, one of America’s oldest and most exclusive beach clubs.

Whitehouse has been one of the harshest critics of the Administration of President Donald Trump and Trump’s unwillingness to condemn hate groups and bigotry.

After weeks of refusing to answer GoLocal’s questions about his membership in Bailey’s — Nagle caught up with Whitehouse attending an event in Newport. 

“I think it would be nice if they (Bailey’s Beach Club) changed a little bit, but it's not my position,” Whitehouse told Nagle.

When asked if he would pressure the club to push for diversity at the all-white club], Whitehouse said, “I will take that up privately.” He then told Nagle he had no further comment and walked away.

Whitehouse at Bailey's in 2015, nine years after he said he would quit
One of America’s Most Exclusive Clubs

Bailey’s Beach Club is not and average private club -- it has been described as the most exclusive club in America.

The New York Times wrote about the club more than a decade ago…’’People kill to belong to the beach,'' said Beth Pyle, whose twin sister, she added, has never quite made it into the club. 'It has really driven some people crazy when they don't get in.''

For Whitehouse and his wife Sandra Thornton, Bailey’s is a way of life -- an insular enclave away from Rhode Island and the rest of the world. 

The GoLocal investigation found that the Whitehouses have extended the club connections to others. Vivian Spencer, another Bailey’s lifer, is now a member of Whitehouse’s Senate staff. 

Politicians and "White Only" Clubs

Politicians’ ties to exclusionary organizations have come under scrutiny for years.

One of America's most private and exclusive clubs - no Black members
In 1992, President Bill Clinton was chided by the NAACP for golfing at an all-white golf club in Arkansas.

In 2006, Senator Edward “Ted” Kennedy severed his ties with the all-male Owl club which he joined while at Harvard University — after he had blasted Judge and Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito Jr. for having joined a conservative group called “Concerned Alumni of Princeton,” that had wanted the university to remain all-male. 

The late U.S. Senator John H. Chafee would not be a member of all-male or all-white clubs.

Whitehouse and his wife Sandra own multiple properties, including a $2.7 million, 6 bedroom house off of Ocean Drive in Newport — less than a quarter mile from Bailey's Beach.

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