By Chris Williams on October 17, 2019.

House Mouse. Shutterstock.

Could that little mouse have known he was about to make the national news? There was a bit of excitement in the White House press rooms last week when a mouse fell from the ceiling in the middle of the morning and directly into the lap of NBC White House Correspondent Peter Alexander.

Faint-hearted reporters fled the area while others bravely attempted to corner the mouse that escaped through a tangle of wires. It then ran under a door and was last seen in the press briefing room where it attempted to ask a question of the President. Some said they saw a tiny microphone attached to the belly of the mouse. There was speculation that the behind-the-scenes rodent might even be the White House secret whistleblower. This is not fake news – there is NBC video of the event.


House mouse eating grapes. Shutterstock.

The White House has always had its share of vermin of all types. It is an occupied house, after all, with gourmet food. So in honor of the 6th annual national Rodent Awareness Week, October 20-26, we present some historical tidbits regarding rats (and mice) in the White House over the past 200 years:

  • White House First Lady Caroline Harrison, wife of President Benjamin Harrison, complained in October 1889 that “the rats have nearly taken the building so it has become necessary to get a man with ferrets to drive them out. They have become so numerous and bold that they get up on the table.” 
  • Henrietta Nesbitt who was Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt’s housekeeper in the White House wrote in her 1948 book, White House Diary, that she was appalled by the numbers and variety of mice, rats, squirrels, cockroaches and ants that were present when they moved in. “I tried to get one of the entomologists to figure out how many generations of cockroaches had grown up there since President Adams,” she wrote.
  • In November 1975 during the Ford administration, a National Security Council meeting scheduled for the secure Situation Room in the basement of the White House had to be moved to the Roosevelt Room instead because “one of the ladies saw a large rat in the Situation Room,” a staffer wrote. “I looked but couldn’t find anything to club.”
  • First Lady Barbara Bush found herself swimming with a rat as she did her daily laps in the White House pool. “I swim with a mask, and it just went right by in front of me,” she told the Houston Post in 1990. “It did not look like a Walt Disney rat, I’ll tell you that…I was out of that pool so much faster than I thought I could.” Fortunately, President Bush was there and drowned the rat.
  • Sometimes White House rodents have actually served the country’s leaders. Theodore Roosevelt had a pet rat named Jonathan that he said had a “most friendly and affectionate nature.”  Andrew Johnson (1865-69) made pets of two mice that he found in his White House bedroom. He fed them from a bowl of flour and left water out for them. Some felt he even relied on his mice for emotional support during his impeachment process.



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