The weird story behind Sheldon Whitehouse’s beach club furor

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse’s (D-R.I.) association with a famously exclusive beach club in Newport was widely known in Rhode Island and not much of a controversy until a week ago, when it suddenly exploded into the national news scene, fueled by the power of Twitter and a growing national debate over racial and economic inequality in America.

The story of Whitehouse’s club “membership” was made extra juicy by unsubstantiated claims that Bailey’s Beach Club — a small, elite club where John F. Kennedy and Jacqueline Bouvier frolicked in the waves when their families first met to discuss wedding plans — is an all-white organization and that Whitehouse promised to resign from it when he first ran for Senate in 2006.

One veteran of Rhode Island’s political journalism scene expressed some surprise that an old story about Whitehouse’s affiliation with Bailey’s Beach Club blew up into a national controversy.