October 16th, 2012
10:55 PM ET
6 years 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

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

Filed under: 2012 • Debate • Mitt Romney
soundoff (846 Responses)
  1. ronvan

    HA, HA!! Just as I expected. And now we have to listen to the "elected children" argue over who won! Did YOU really hear anything NEW? And let me ask you this. Do YOU really think, with all the problems we have, that MR is going to magically fix them overnight? Right now the ONLY way things are going to get done is to either VOTE all republican or democrat. Say what you want but, the republicans have PROVEN that by saying NO on everything can stop our government in its tracks!! The president is only ONE person. What about President Obama and a MR ticket? that would be very interesting.

    October 17, 2012 08:43 am at 8:43 am |
  2. clarke

    that's right Mitt, Keep women in blinders, oh you said binders? Is that so when you want or need a women for something you will pull the binder off the shelf and then when you are done, you put in back. I could of swore you said Blinders. Oh sorry, I will go back to my binder.

    October 17, 2012 08:44 am at 8:44 am |
  3. UDidntBuildThat

    Willis-Jill, What's Romney plan? He had 90 minutes to tells us. No specific on his 5 point plan.
    What was Obama's plan? No specifics just attack the opponent.
    "when u run out of ideas and have no solution of your own, you attack, use scare tactics, and paint your opponent as something you should run from". Obama 2008.

    October 17, 2012 08:45 am at 8:45 am |
  4. Blah blah the wheel's off your trailer

    President Obama has a binder full of women all across this country.

    Obama/Biden 2012 by a LANDSLIDE!

    October 17, 2012 08:46 am at 8:46 am |
  5. nyhousewife

    For whatever this is worth with regard to the "binder full of women" comment, I am reminded of a "Big Love" episode (the series about a Mormon in a plural marriage) that aired a year ago. In the episode, men shopping for additional wives were provided actual binders containing pictures of young women available for "marriage" to help with their selections. Somehow, I could not disconnect that image from the "binder full of women" remark that Romney made last night. I don't know of any CEO who has to rely on "binders" to find qualified female executives. Most rely on connections and direct work experience with such qualified women. But then again, Bain was not known for hiring and promoting women.

    October 17, 2012 08:49 am at 8:49 am |
  6. MJC

    We used to have "A thousand points of light" and "Its morning in America", now we have "Binders full of Women!"

    October 17, 2012 08:49 am at 8:49 am |
  7. jungleboo

    Thank you, Mr. President. You made us all very proud to have you as our leader. Obama/Biden 2012.

    October 17, 2012 08:50 am at 8:50 am |
  8. Jane, American from Texas

    You people need to get your mind out of the gutter! Romney is a decent man. Only depraved idiots would view his words any other way, You must be afraid if this is what you got out of the debate. Our country is a mess because of the president's policies. You wonder why our country is going down? Grown up!

    October 17, 2012 08:53 am at 8:53 am |
  9. duffy meister

    "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"
    There you have it, men are the only ones who have the qualifications to run this world, girls get over yourself, we tried liberating you and all you did was argue about who was getting paid more! Get back in the kitchen and be happy we men still need you for something! In the future women will be redundant, cloning and robots will render you women useless!

    October 17, 2012 08:55 am at 8:55 am |
  10. freedom

    Mitt Romney's record is solid. Mitt chooses women to be in key posts in his administrtion and treats them with respect. Obama sends his women cabinet members out to take a bullet for him.

    October 17, 2012 08:57 am at 8:57 am |
  11. Tree

    Romney sound like a CEO, did you check out the look in his eyes. Its like am better than you little people am Mitt Romney.

    October 17, 2012 08:57 am at 8:57 am |
  12. UDidntBuildThat

    What matters is who demostrated a better knowledge of the economy,economics, and who is better and getting this economy back. The clear winner here is Romney hands down. He delivered on the number one issue for America, economy, jobs and leadership.
    At the end of the day Romney is right we don't have to settle for this ie "Obama's new normal". Obama has the soaring rhetoric but his policies has hurt the middle and poor the most while he goes out saying he is for the poor and middle class. Just look at the record. Actions speak louder than words.

    Obama says his energy policies is all of the above. Well if that is case why are gas prices so high? Why did he reduce drilling on federal lands? Romney was right drilling on federal lands have gone down 62% while gas prices continue to soar. Why are you paying more for everything since 2008?.
    Obama said his stimulus worked well why are so many people out of work still today? Why are 12 million more on food stamps today?
    Obama said Obamacare will reduce the cost of health insurance and if u like your healthcare plan u can keep it. Well I just got word that my healthcare plan is going up astronomically for my family in the next calendar yr, and was warned it will double in increase next yr when Obamacare kicks in. Nice. In other companies, they have lost their healtchare coverage so they have no option to keep.
    it's the economy stupid. Obama's policies dont work and he has promised to continue to do more of the same while still not giving any specifics. We are paying more while making less. Time for someone who know how to actually run an economy and create jobs with years of a proven track record. Because this 4yr track record is hurting everyone esp. the middle income and the poor.

    October 17, 2012 08:57 am at 8:57 am |
  13. Tabeth

    Mitt has women in binders but Obama has them on the job: UN, Secretary of State, Ministry of health and more they are not in binders

    October 17, 2012 08:57 am at 8:57 am |
  14. Pete

    Romney didn't explain did he as a Mormon bishop how he threatened single Mormon women with excommunication from the church if she didn't give up the child did he,how he said single parents are incompetent,irresponsible and that he's against gay parents single or not as well!!How Pres.Obama talked to him on his investments in China,not in a pension Romney tried to change but personal in CNOOC a Chinese governmental corporation that tried with Romneys help to get drilling permits in the Gulf of Mexico.Or how his Bain in Illinois with Honeywell sold to a Chinese company called Sensata and told employees there they'd have to train Chinese replacements before shipping the business overseas and threatening the Honeywell employees as well with taking away their benefits,etc..The Chinese national flag flies over the factory in Illinois as well,like that and you republican idiots want him as your president..How bout him being investigated in a ponzi scheme along with his son Tagg and a Allan Stanford started in 2008 in his presidencial campaign headquarters,they can't find the 8.5-9 billion that investors gave them and does this destroying his governors files,harddrives have anything to do with it,please chime in if you think I'm wrong.And CNN got me upset because of their right leaning polls on Romney,more presidencial,better leader,you've got to be kidding more like more arrogent,more out of touch saying women basically have no rights ,he does advocate it in his Mormon church of women only talking when talked to,only then,yah want that women,most don't!!

    October 17, 2012 08:59 am at 8:59 am |
  15. Ed, Watertown MA

    Besides the insulting way Romney referred to "Binders of Women" he was also lying about the history. The binders of eligible, qualified women were prepared by a bi-partisan woman's organization called MassGAP before the election in 2002 to be presented to whichever candidate won the election. Romney did not initiate the recruitment or reach out to the organizations.

    In addition, Romney also lied about his record on appointments. 30% of senior appointments were women when he came into office and only 27% were at the end of his term. He did nothing to increase the number of women in government.

    October 17, 2012 09:04 am at 9:04 am |
  16. Cedar Rapids

    "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."

    ....and? so only women pick up the kids or something? what decade are you living in?

    October 17, 2012 09:04 am at 9:04 am |
  17. Randy, San Francisco

    Romney has been a member of the "all boys club" too long. His condescending binder remark is an insult to women.

    October 17, 2012 09:05 am at 9:05 am |
  18. Tony

    Romney has to go to those binders to find female supporters now.

    October 17, 2012 09:05 am at 9:05 am |
  19. paddy

    Yes, he said what he believes in. He has a stay home wife who takes care of his 7 children and that is what he thinks the sole role of a women is. Any women with qualifications who are trying to both have a career and a family are statistics for him ( a binder) to throw at people. Obama did an excellent job of explaining what would matter to make things easier, child care, flex time, college education ....

    October 17, 2012 09:07 am at 9:07 am |
  20. soulcatcher

    binders full of women, because he can hire them for less and make them do more... oops.

    October 17, 2012 09:08 am at 9:08 am |
  21. Joe

    Never has so much squaking been made by an Obama obsessed media for so little actual substance. Romney was clearly referring to a binder full of Women's resumes to consider for staff positions. Start going beyond words and look at actions. When it comes to employeeing women in good positions with good pay, who has the actual record on their own staffs to back it up, Obama or Romney? You media lunkheads should actually answer that question and get out of the business of helping elect one candidate over another. Sign me disgusted at the "objective" media.

    October 17, 2012 09:09 am at 9:09 am |
  22. Wilson

    Now we will continue to hear from Obama's Ministry of Truth.

    October 17, 2012 09:09 am at 9:09 am |
  23. rkelly2

    Romney was referring to resumes – don't be obtuse

    October 17, 2012 09:10 am at 9:10 am |
  24. pditty

    Romney is gaining ground among women in the latest polls. This is an effort to stop that momentum. Never mind that Women have been marginalized and basically shut out of this administration. I also can't help but think what woman would want to get involved with politics the way women like Palin and Clinton are treated by the media and the American public.

    October 17, 2012 09:14 am at 9:14 am |
  25. Wilson

    I can see the left wants to continue a form of "affirmative action." Rather than hire the best person for the job, hire a woman no matter if she can do the job or not.

    October 17, 2012 09:15 am at 9:15 am |
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