October 16th, 2012
10:55 PM ET
1 year ago

Internet goes wild over 'Binders full of women'

(CNN) - In the thousands of words spoken in Tuesday's presidential debate, it was four awkwardly phrased ones that set the Internet afire: Binders full of women.

In response to a question on gender pay inequality Romney said that as he was assembling his cabinet after being elected governor in Massachusetts, he questioned his staff for sending him only male applicants and was told those were all who were qualified.


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"I went to a number of women's groups and said, 'Can you help us find folks,' and they brought us whole binders full of women," Romney said.

Before the debate was over, there was a Twitter hashtag, a series of memes on Tumblr, and a Facebook page with over 100,000 fans. The phrase was the third-fastest rising search on Google during the debate.

It prompted memes, such as Hugh Hefner in what appears to be a library: "Binders full of women? Oh sure, I've got hundreds of them."

READ MORE: 'Binders full of women' is debate's viral hit

The Obama campaign was in on it as well: a paid post from President Barack Obama's official campaign account appeared atop searches for "binders full of women" on Twitter.

In the second question of the night, voter Katherine Fenton queried Obama: "In what new ways to you intend to rectify the inequalities in the workplace, specifically regarding females making only 72 percent of what their male counterparts earn?"

The incumbent cited the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which was the first piece of legislation he signed into law.

Romney, who worked in business, then served as governor of Massachusetts, said he "learned a great deal" about the inequalities between men and women in the workplace when chief executive of his state.

"I had the chance to pull together a cabinet and all the applicants seemed to be men," Romney said. And I – and I went to my staff, and I said, 'How come all the people for these jobs are – are all men?' They said, "Well, these are the people that have the qualifications.' "

Romney said he requested "a concerted effort to go out and find women who had backgrounds that could be qualified to become members of our cabinet."

Then, the sound bite which drove the online chatter.

"I went to a number of women's groups and said, 'Can you help us find folks,' and they brought us whole binders full of women," Romney said.

The tweets and posts quickly stacked up.

Kate Segal, whose Twitter bio says she is the Democratic floor leader in the Michigan House of Representatives, took a political angle.

Among the memes was at least one using an image of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in sunglasses which went viral earlier this year.

"Romney still uses binders," the meme reads, as Clinton looks at her cell phone.

Another showed Romney speaking at a podium with a stack of ring binders next to him.

In the debate, the former governor credited his outreach effort with his mix of department heads.

"Now one of the reasons I was able to get so many good women to be part of that team was because of our recruiting effort," he said. "But number two, because I recognized that if you're going to have women in the workforce that sometimes you need to be more flexible. My chief of staff, for instance, had two kids that were still in school."

The highest-ranking woman in his administration was his number two, Lieutenant Gov. Kerry Healey.

But in the social media sphere, yes, puns are permitted: a post to a "Binders Full Of Women" Facebook page read, "Trapper Keeper jokes are appropriate."

READ MORE: Funniest tweets on the second presidential debate

Also on the CNN Political Ticker

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– All tied up ahead of second Obama-Romney showdown

– Obama ad makes case for economic policies

– Romney message this week: 'A clear choice on debt and deficits'

– Largely hidden away, Obama reports debate prep 'going great'


Filed under: 2012 • Debate • Mitt Romney
soundoff (846 Responses)
  1. Jeff from Bronxville

    Sorry, Romney supporters, here are the facts from the Boston Globe: "Those “binders full of women” actually came from a coalition called Massachusetts Government Appointments Project, or MassGAP, that had formed in August 2002 to address the shortage of women in high-ranking government positions. They had started assembling groups of applicants, taking several months to reach out to women’s organizations around the state and preparing to present potential hires to whichever candidate won the election. “We contacted both candidates before the final election,” said Liz Levin, who was chairman of MassGAP until 2010. “This was an effort that we put our hearts in. We wanted to make sure that people knew how many good, qualified, terrific ladies there were.” Romney appointed Kerry Healey, the Lieutenant Governor, to be the liaison to MassGap. But over the next two years, women made up only 25 percent of the 64 new appointments Romney made. By the end of his term, the number of women in high-ranking positions was slightly lower than it was before Romney took office. Romney did not have a history of appointing women to high-level positions in the private sector. In fact, Romney did not have any women partners as CEO of Bain Capital during the 1980s and 1990s." The point is that Romney didn't proactively ask for more women to be recruited, he responded to political pressure. At Bain, he didn't care enough about involving women in the management and future of his firm to find even one woman to be a partner until just before he left full-time leadership of Bain in 2002. He shouldn't be misrepresenting his record over this-that's both disingenuous and dishonest.

    October 17, 2012 03:22 pm at 3:22 pm |
  2. Tact

    I love reading posts that portray liberals as desperate
    and vicious when i see an equal if not excessive amount of ignorant rants coming from conservatives as well. It is true that this statement is being blown out of proportion but i have read the same from conservatives when the phrase "you didn't build that" came out. Just realize that if it can be dished out be prepared to hear comments when your candidate commits an equally unpopular gaffe. Sounds like hypocrisy otherwise.

    October 17, 2012 03:23 pm at 3:23 pm |
  3. Mkjp

    The republicans here can all untwist their panties. No one is slamming him for the binder thing, it was just funny how he said it. The end. Yes it has swiftly become over done, but it was simply a humorous phrase. Not a gaffe. Lighten up.

    October 17, 2012 03:24 pm at 3:24 pm |
  4. Changouno

    Think again: CNN Fact checkers have been proven wrong by many other fact checkers. Facts that are checked by taking part of the story are not FACTS, they are bias opinions.
    You clearly like to make up your own twisted story. I never said Romney did it. I know what Romney said and what you say he also said in the debate so it is a mute point. The point is he did it and most of the media is bias and left. Today Lt Governor Kerry Healey who worked in his cabinet refuted your bias paper and said it was Romney that asked her to head it up. You need to be the one that knows there facts and not just listen to one paper and assume it is accurate.

    The reality is Obama’s plan for America is to take from whites and give to the poor blacks and Muslims of the world. If you had read his books and heard his sermons years ago you would know this and it was in his own biography that he said he was born in Kenya and sent by God to down size America. He has the opinion America is to big for its britches.

    October 17, 2012 03:28 pm at 3:28 pm |
  5. Nikolai

    Anyone who takes the "Binders full of women" comment seriously when you know he was referring to resumes is a freaking moron.

    October 17, 2012 03:31 pm at 3:31 pm |
  6. Mrs Admin

    With all the important issues we care about and this is a top headline? Is this the best you can do?

    October 17, 2012 03:32 pm at 3:32 pm |
  7. Really what?

    "alot" is not a word. Gullible is not spelled gullable. Physician heal thyself.

    October 17, 2012 03:32 pm at 3:32 pm |
  8. Bill

    I think that answer would have been most appropriate for Bill Clinton. That being said, I CANNOT stand the woman make only 72% of what men make. There are many reasons that number exists, and if you dig into it you can see how it is flawed. No one mentions the fact that 58% of all college attendees are now woman, and only 43% men? I saw one feminist state essentially that it is because men are lazy. Can you imagine if a male said woman are lazy, what the reaction would be?

    October 17, 2012 03:34 pm at 3:34 pm |
  9. Critical Thinking

    I wonder who SNL will use to play Candy Crowley? My guess is John Goodman.

    October 17, 2012 03:34 pm at 3:34 pm |
  10. Changouno

    ...the left and it's bias followers can continue to follow the wooly butt in front of them and follow the lead sheep as your Sheppard Obama walks you over the fiscal cliff of disaster. If you follow so blindly that you can not see what he has done to destroy our country you never will. I have more important things to do that share reason with unreasonable bigots.

    October 17, 2012 03:35 pm at 3:35 pm |
  11. The Real Tom Paine

    -Changouno

    ...the left and it's bias followers can continue to follow the wooly butt in front of them and follow the lead sheep as your Sheppard Obama walks you over the fiscal cliff of disaster. If you follow so blindly that you can not see what he has done to destroy our country you never will. I have more important things to do that share reason with unreasonable bigots.
    ********************
    When you get a grasp of syntax and grammar, please come back. I think your arguments might be amusing.

    October 17, 2012 03:39 pm at 3:39 pm |
  12. Critical Thinking

    @Claired

    I saw your comments and I found this stat which speaks to the issue. I don't think that Romney was identifying you and your situation.

    Seventy-two percent of black babies are born to unmarried mothers today, according to government statistics. This number is inseparable from the work of Carroll, an obstetrician who has dedicated her 40-year career to helping black women."The girls don't think they have to get married. I tell them children deserve a mama and a daddy. They really do,"

    October 17, 2012 03:40 pm at 3:40 pm |
  13. okeydockey

    Romney acted like bully, not intersted in answers or facts.
    His way of getting a point across after condecending on the one who ask the questionND was to try to get on Obamas face.
    How can he say he relates to middle class, does he ever had to pay for school loans, or get get jobs to support his way in life?? Not a handout or posh cushy jobs because he is the son of so and so?
    Was his job ever shipped overseas? Has he had to collect unemployment, out of true need? be on the vere of losing his home, because of medical bills
    Many people wil wonder what doe he have hide that he will not release his taxes.
    HOW CAN HE UNDERSTAND MIDLE CLASSS OR BEING POOR IF HE HAS NEVER BEEN ONE???????????????????
    His words secretly recorded say what he truly means in private, the reason he backtrack was because it became public. In my book that is a coward, hypocrite and two face liar.!!!!

    October 17, 2012 03:40 pm at 3:40 pm |
  14. Changouno

    Tact:
    You need to hear his entire message. Obama not only said you did not build in context to small business not being responsible for their hard worked also said he thinks it is so funny when they think they are so smart for saying they built their own business them self. So if as you say the right is bias for taking his comment in context then maybe you agree that small business' are ignorant for thinking they are smart and can have the American Dream and prosper.

    October 17, 2012 03:47 pm at 3:47 pm |
  15. Jars

    Hey Changouno, Obama did not say in his biography that he was born in Kenya and was sent by God to down size America... That is utter nonsense. Don't vote for the guy – fine, but for goodness sake, at least try to make your lies believable...

    Oh and before you ask, I've read his biography (and one other of his books)....

    October 17, 2012 03:51 pm at 3:51 pm |
  16. Changouno

    Bill, the 72% is skewed.
    That is as fact that has been proven wrong. The paper that printed it was wrong. I could spend time with facts by maybe you should research to find it your self rather than assume one sided articles are correct. Regardless that is not an acurate percent and the story behind it is not accurate either.

    October 17, 2012 03:52 pm at 3:52 pm |
  17. paulronco

    Oh yes. I saw this coming the moment he said it.

    October 17, 2012 03:52 pm at 3:52 pm |
  18. Observing from A Distance

    Wow after reading this blog for an hour or so I am nearly at a loss for words....but I'll try to squeeze a few out...what is wrong with the gop...do they seriously think there are enough people stupid enough to elect Romney and Ryan...oh I take that back because Dubya was there for 8 years...how can the woman's vote be turning to Romney and Ryan these guys think women are second class citizens...they are one step removed from the Taliban with their outrageous double standards for women....yet one woman who didn't even make the binder...Sarah Palin has already written them off and intimated she is available for 2016...God help us all !

    October 17, 2012 03:53 pm at 3:53 pm |
  19. Changouno

    Jars,,,you read his corrected edition after he was called on it. his first few copies did say that. It was removed later claming it was a typo...but his publisher had checked it out as a fact and printed it that way. I know some one that has the original copy.

    October 17, 2012 03:55 pm at 3:55 pm |
  20. Changouno

    ...besides Jars,
    I said some of it was in his sermoans from years ago; it all adds up to the understanding of what he is out to do.

    October 17, 2012 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
  21. Seriously

    Most of the time republicans are against Affirmative Action, except when their nominee says he used it for women?

    October 17, 2012 04:07 pm at 4:07 pm |
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