The Truth About Lemmings, The Rodent, Not The Political Animal

The Truth About Lemmings, The Rodent, Not The Political Animal

8:48am Oct 08, 2013

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And now we have this note as we continue America's most comprehensive coverage of the government shutdown. We have this morning, a scientific clarification about lemmings. Last week, you may recall a Republican lawmaker called his colleagues lemmings. He meant his fellow Republicans were following Senator Ted Cruz on a disastrous mission that led to the government shutdown.

Lemmings supposedly follow each other over a cliff. But we have learned - NPR has learned - that lemming mass suicide is a myth.


Scientists say that while lemmings will sometimes jump into a body of water as a traveling pack, and some will perish, those deaths are accidental - lemmings can swim. The notion of the furry, little rodents following each other mindlessly off a cliff, to certain death, was popularized by 1958 Oscar-winning Disney documentary called "White Wilderness."

INSKEEP: An investigation years later, showed that the lemming suicide scene in that movie was faked. Disney faking something? Anyway, they were herded by the filmmakers off a cliff. We are now told that most lemmings survived.


UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (Singing) I am a lemming and I've got some advice...

INSKEEP: It's NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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