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

The faction of House Republicans leading the charge against the Affordable Care Act amid a partial government shutdown have been referred to as lemmings by those who believe they are committing political suicide. But as Renee Montagne explains, the idea that lemmings commit mass suicide is a myth.

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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

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.

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

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.

(SOUNDBITE OF A SONG)

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

INSKEEP: It's NPR News.

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