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

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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. Critical Thinker

    Mitt needs to cite several people (Republicans, Independents, and Democrats) who will vouch for him on the "Binders of Women." Smells extremely fishy to me since resumes were and are hardly ever put in binders, awaste of time and effort. If they are kept, they are usually filed in a filing cabinet, not a binder unless someone is extremely anal retentive.

    October 17, 2012 09:50 am at 9:50 am |
  2. Dee

    Romney made several comments that offended me i.e., women need flexible work hours, binders full of women, etc. He doesn't have a clue. He's someone that I do not want representing me as President of the United States of America.

    October 17, 2012 09:51 am at 9:51 am |
  3. davedave2

    women with kids get accomodations men do not -- if we have to build our work day around you, maybe you get less money - what is fair is fair

    October 17, 2012 09:51 am at 9:51 am |
  4. paddy

    Might I add that " the binder comment" was not " elegantly stated"! translation: couldn't hide my true feeling that well...

    October 17, 2012 09:52 am at 9:52 am |
  5. Scott

    I'd rather have binders full of women who are employed than 3 million more women in poverty...

    October 17, 2012 09:52 am at 9:52 am |
  6. Larry in Houston

    read a lot of these posts – bottom line is this : IF we elect this guy as our next president – this country will end up going back at least 35 years, plain & simple. Anybody, and I mean anybody that makes less than 75K per yr. will have to be on their own, or struggle.
    May the Best Man Win – 2012
    Hillary – 2016 ( with a surplus in – 2018 )

    October 17, 2012 09:53 am at 9:53 am |
  7. Page 148 in the Binder

    Hey Romney: The 50's called and they want you back. And you are going to be the voice for all women? Not this one!

    October 17, 2012 09:53 am at 9:53 am |
  8. palusko996769

    Republicans complain that media portrait Romney as being out of touch and distant from regular people. But no media can portrait Romney that way better than Romney himself.

    October 17, 2012 09:53 am at 9:53 am |
  9. Guest

    I fail to see the interest in this supposed news or issue. Clearly, excluding the half wits on this comment board, if you watched the debate you knew exactly what Romney intended. But, then again, when you cant run on your record you fabricate issues by taking statements out of context. The left and Obama are up against a wall and failing to adequately explain their horrendous policies and actions, inaction in some cases, and the vote will reflect. I'll spend my vote on Romney, a much more experienced and capable leader. Romney/Ryan 2012!!

    October 17, 2012 09:54 am at 9:54 am |
  10. maria

    I don't understand how pople can be concerned about what Romney said when Obama has not done anything for women in 4 YEARS. 4 YEARS and no legislature on equal pay. I don't even remember him ever mentioning it during those 4 YEARS. So how are any of you women out there, going to mock a candidate for saying "binders" instead of "resumes" when the issues is that 4 YEARS there has been no action for women to get equal pay. Now that is the sad part. I say NO to 4 more years of the same.

    October 17, 2012 09:54 am at 9:54 am |
  11. anonymous1

    aren't there more important things to think about than making fun of a misspeak by a candidate? anyone with half a brain knows he meant resumes. if you all want to do that then it's a stretch that Obama was speaking about Libya that day in the Rose garden since it took according to Candi Crowley a month for the admin to say it was an attack. he was speaking in general terms but alas it's the political season and everyone has to get a little crazy about their opponent

    October 17, 2012 09:54 am at 9:54 am |
  12. Silva

    To Republicans, we women are a commodity like Pepsi or potato chips.As soon as we disagree, we are labeled "feminazi".

    October 17, 2012 09:55 am at 9:55 am |
  13. Bill

    Dems will use any tactic to try and pit one group against another. How ridiculous to try and twist this into something it's not. Mitt just showed us how he took a proactive approach toward providing opportunity women as is his nature, yet some just want to attempt to make others think it was a sexist approach.
    Grow up, wake up, and realize Obama is taking this country down. By the way does this site selectively fail to post comments against their buddy Obama? My comments on the previous post "Obama comes on strong, Romney stands ground in second debate", was not even put up. Hmm?

    October 17, 2012 09:56 am at 9:56 am |
  14. PumaYaYa

    Binders Full of Women
    Binders Full of African Americans
    Binders Full of Latinos
    Binders Full of Asians
    Binders Full of Gays
    Binders Full of Disabled
    Binders Full of Veterans
    Binders Full of Old People
    .......
    Sounds like affirmative action.....

    October 17, 2012 09:56 am at 9:56 am |
  15. JT1960

    The truth is that Romney did not request binders full of women. MASSGap had prepared lists of qualified women before knowing whether a Republican or Democrat was even going to be elected. This was done because a serious lack of women in Massachusetts government. MASSGap provided the list to the governor, he never asked for it. Additionally, women in senior positions in government in Massachusetts actually declined under Romney instead of increased. Don't ever play poker with this guy, because you can never tell when he is lying...

    October 17, 2012 09:57 am at 9:57 am |
  16. Dave

    Robmey must have lost the "binders full of Women" when he ran Bain, after ruining Massachusetts. The equality of hiring and pay at Bain has been described as "dismal".

    October 17, 2012 09:57 am at 9:57 am |
  17. Mighty Mighty Mittens

    willard is a Mormon country club elitist who thinks women should be home making their hubbies a sandwich. It comes across in all his answers about women.

    And additionaly the Boston Globe debunked this claim within a few hours of the entitled country clubber making it. Turns out one womans group came to romney and gave him a binder - what a tool.

    Wonder if his little joke a few months about "having fun" with a state trooper by telling him he was to fire the "chambermaid" for not sufficiently servicing willard's room fits into this basic narrative of the rich pampered conservative white guy and his attitude towards "the gals."

    October 17, 2012 09:57 am at 9:57 am |
  18. ruth

    Women ,get over it...you DO have a say into today's world,you are not the underdog,you have control over your bodys and whether men get sex or not,whether you get ahead in business or not,whether you sleep with your boss or have the morals of a dog...only you control yourself.If you allow men to make decisions in your life in todays world the only one you have to blame is YOU!.My God you run corporations ,you head companies,do you have so little self esteem of your life?

    October 17, 2012 09:58 am at 9:58 am |
  19. Core republican Values

    It was classic Romney – completely insincere, out of touch, and offensive.

    How many times do we have to say it? Unless you are an old, wealthy, christian white male or you just crawled out from under a rock, you are shooting yourself in the knee by voting for Mitt 'Binders Full of Women" Romney!

    October 17, 2012 09:58 am at 9:58 am |
  20. conrad

    Well, first he said there were no women who were qualified for the job, only men. So what he is saying that to find qualified women one must search far and wide because there just aren't that many of them. That should play well ... should really help women's cause.

    October 17, 2012 09:58 am at 9:58 am |
  21. IR

    MR women’s policy summarized: Marry off single women, give them flexible schedules so they can go home and cook for a husband that makes more than them, let them get pregnant with babies they do not want to have, and take away any affordable health care & public assistance so these babies grow up, buy a machine gun, and rob you at the corner of your house. Then blame the black guy.

    October 17, 2012 09:58 am at 9:58 am |
  22. Mary1972

    Sounded uppity and country clubbish. What does a "binder full of women" do to inequality in pay? Old fashioned and full of himself. Modern way is to keep the links in your iphone.

    October 17, 2012 09:58 am at 9:58 am |
  23. pkrbkr

    Obama has done more for women in his 4 years than Mittens could even dream of! It is the 21st century, "binders" are replaced by computers, Mitt! Wake up, people! Obama/Biden 2012

    October 17, 2012 09:59 am at 9:59 am |
  24. MikeB

    More distortion and perversion from the Obama camp and his minions.

    October 17, 2012 10:01 am at 10:01 am |
  25. Eileen Shaeffer

    It would be nice to know what Romney paid the women in his administration. "Betcha" not as much as the men.

    October 17, 2012 10:03 am at 10:03 am |
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