October 16th, 2012
10:55 PM ET
2 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

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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. NotFooledByTheLiberalMedia

    The "binders" comment was clearly referring to resumes. The left is obviously grasping at straws in a desperate attempt to save Obama. We can only hope most Americans aren't stupid enough to fall for it.

    October 17, 2012 10:04 am at 10:04 am |
  2. Peggy - TX

    He sounded as if he settled for less qualified applicants, women, so that he could make a show of having women around him and working for him, verses actually doing or proposing to do any thing substantial to actually help women in the work force or help women get an education to become better qualified. To make it sound even worse he implied it is well undertood that women carry the burden of domesistic chores at home so he allowed the women that worked for him to have felxible hours. Did he allow felxibale hopurs for the men as well? I do not think many women walked away thinking that this guy is someone who actually respects a womens right to make her own decisions and that he would use the power of the federal governemnt to protect that right. Rather he sounded like a used car sales man tring to sell us a a lemon.

    October 17, 2012 10:04 am at 10:04 am |
  3. A Bit Askew

    First, second, and third ladies of the United States, we're only 3 weeks away!

    October 17, 2012 10:04 am at 10:04 am |
  4. gafNC

    As CEO Romney understands that for a company to progress, collateral damage is sometimes a necessity. Ask anyone who has been terminated because their positon, though appreciated, was phased out due to " a new direction the company is going in, thanks for all your years of dedicated service, sorry about teh unemployment and your family health issues". It is necessary in the private / public sectors. However, The collateral damage in this case is the 47% Romney so eloquently pointed out. The first time in the entire campaign I felt his sincerity. Romney has already justified in his mind that the elderly, veterans, woman, students, education, environment etc. will be the necessary collateral damage to appease the "Shareholders". And as I have seen across 30 years of corporate life, there is rarely, positive, long term impact. A short spike of positive movement perhaps and then a slow steady downslide when the shareholders pull their stakes and invest overseas and the process starts all over again. Romneys board room arrogance and salesman approach to campaigning ( sell them what they want, not necessarily what you can deliver) isnt what this country needs.

    October 17, 2012 10:06 am at 10:06 am |
  5. Paul

    Sooooo many mad Republicans hahahahaha...Rick Santorum warned you guys lol

    October 17, 2012 10:07 am at 10:07 am |
  6. CarlWstCoast

    Really? Of all the questions asked, of all the topics discussed, the "binders full of women" remark is what takes the focus? Further evidence that our republic is in serious trouble...

    October 17, 2012 10:08 am at 10:08 am |
  7. Garringt

    Anyone who is offended by the "binders of women" remark, or who don't understand what it meant (as some are claiming), should NOT vote! If you do not have the intelligence to understand this simple issue, you certainly can't understand the more complex issues of foreign policy, job creation, taxes, etc.

    Candy Crowley's performance last night may be a near perfect example of why women are paid less than men.

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

    I respect a person who identifies a problem and does something about it. Instead of focusing of the words chosen during a heat of the battle debate look at the fact Romney had the initiative to reach out to "women" groups and have them identify "women" for cabinet positions that may have otherwise not be given an opportunity. The fact that the media constantly spins this information to the American people to get them to think otherwise is an outrage.

    October 17, 2012 10:08 am at 10:08 am |
  9. Jake

    Does he have a binder on women who had abortions, or women that are gay? There has to be some way that Mitt and his binders classified them.

    I suspect he kept the binders with the women with bikinis on or no clothes. Someone should tell him you can get those kinds at the newstand...playboy, etc. No need for binders.

    This guy is such a dork.

    October 17, 2012 10:08 am at 10:08 am |
  10. azlady630

    Did he hire any of the women he found in the binders? What a Neandethal!

    October 17, 2012 10:08 am at 10:08 am |
  11. Susan/steel city

    Romney had the wrong answer to his own question. When he asked why there were no women chosen for this specific panel & he asked why & was told because these are all qualified people, he should have asked for the resignation of the person who only took an all male panel to begin with.

    October 17, 2012 10:09 am at 10:09 am |
  12. Lauri

    Binders full of women" – a lie, of course.

    "What actually happened was that in 2002—prior to the election, not even knowing yet whether it would be a Republican or Democratic administration—a bipartisan group of women in Massachusetts formed MassGAP to address the problem of few women in senior leadership positions in state government. There were more than 40 organizations involved with the Massachusetts Women’s Political Caucus (also bipartisan) as the lead sponsor.

    They did the research and put together the binder full of women qualified for all the different cabinet positions, agency heads, and authorities and commissions. They presented this binder to Governor Romney when he was elected.

    I have written about this before, in various contexts; tonight I’ve checked with several people directly involved in the MassGAP effort who confirm that this history as I’ve just presented it is correct—and that Romney’s claim tonight, that he asked for such a study, is false."

    Oh, and once he had those binders? He hired women for agencies he then cut the funding for.

    There were actually fewer women in executive positions when Romney left office than there were when he started."

    October 17, 2012 10:09 am at 10:09 am |
  13. Betsy

    Retro-Romney. Women
    Rerun-Romney. Economy

    October 17, 2012 10:10 am at 10:10 am |
  14. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    Core republican Values

    It was classic Romney – completely insincere, out of touch, and offensive.
    -------------------------------------------------
    Absolutely.He was counteracted with classic Obama – feisty, factual, friendly and FORMIDABLE!

    Congratulations Mr. President on a job well done last night!
    Obama 2012. Seriously America.

    October 17, 2012 10:12 am at 10:12 am |
  15. vc

    I'm more upset about his offensive comment regarding SINGLE PARENTS! How did that one fall through the cracks?

    October 17, 2012 10:12 am at 10:12 am |
  16. NOTAGOPFAN

    @Rosser, are you SERIOUS? Romney wants to take away women's rights to make decisions about their own bodies, and is against fair pay for women. He VOWS to repeal the ACA that would limit medical resources that women need, that would make just being born a woman a pre-existing condition. He wants to defund Planned Parenthood whose services offer sometimes free but most often times less cost to women that need health screening, cervical cancer, breast cancer to name a few. And you want to say that Obama want sent you back a decade with the contraceptive talk? I don't have a daughter, but I feel bad for yours if Romney wins.

    October 17, 2012 10:12 am at 10:12 am |
  17. UDidntBuildThat

    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..
    ___________________________________
    Got any proof to back that up? Did u know Romney's dad left him a boat load of money and he gave it all to charity started fr scratch with nothing to his name? If Romney hates women so much why was his lieutenant Gov., his second in command as Gov of MA, A FEMALE? If Obama loves women so much, why was there a study done proving that women in HIS admin makes less than their male counter part? Hey, I have some land in the Everglades to sell u. It is very good. Hey even Obama say it has oil on it. and that must be true right? LOL!!

    October 17, 2012 10:12 am at 10:12 am |
  18. KT

    It is jaw dropping to me how any woman could even consider Romney a viable candidate for President. He clearly does not like women unless they are submissive. Yeah back to the 50's we go if he gets elected. His first agenda item will be to take away our right to vote. LOL. Another filthy rich white man trying to impose his personal views on the rest of the country. He is so far removed from the rest of us that he doesn't have a clue!

    October 17, 2012 10:14 am at 10:14 am |
  19. CR Greeley

    Apparently his entire "binders story" was a whopper...

    October 17, 2012 10:15 am at 10:15 am |
  20. The Point

    The question was about fair pay regardless of gender. Romney went right into how he had hired women in the past (big deal), never even addressing the actual question. He is scrambling to sound like he "gets it", but he didn't even understand the gist of the question. Obama, on the other hand, had the perfect answer with Lilly Ledbetter being his FIRST bill signed (nice).

    Romney deserves to be outted for saying that stupid line – he really doesn't "get it" anyway. Notice he also said "IF women are going to be in the workforce" – so out of touch!

    October 17, 2012 10:16 am at 10:16 am |
  21. vc

    His entire comments about women in the workplace were wrong on so many levels anyway. Besides the binders comment, isn't it Affirmative Action to say that you need more women in the workplace?

    Sounds to me like he's trying to be a moderate...yet again. What a flip-flopper.

    October 17, 2012 10:16 am at 10:16 am |
  22. S.B. Stein E.B. NJ

    I didn't remember hearing the binder part, but I do remember that he claims he was surprised at not seeing women candidates. I don't see him a really trying to level the playing field. I am like Obama because I have daughters and want them to have that level playing field with the boys out there.

    October 17, 2012 10:16 am at 10:16 am |
  23. Chicken

    Romney was right, women don't deserve equal pay! Their role is in the home doing laundry and making dinner.

    October 17, 2012 10:16 am at 10:16 am |
  24. Tired_of_Bias

    Another point. Talk to many women in the work place and working around a family is a major concern. Either they are single moms or the fact that moms are the key ingredient that keep a household and family functioning (sorry dads). How many women have left the workplace because they felt they had to choose between work and home. Let's be real, if more women had more flexibility and not a choice I am sure this would aid in the increase of equality for women in the workplace.

    October 17, 2012 10:17 am at 10:17 am |
  25. masonpw

    seriously? Can you take this out of context any more? He wasn't referring to women in a negative way. watch the debate again... he was saying that there were plenty of qualified women and he had "binders" full of qualified individuals for what they were looking for. When they are single mothers, companies need to allow them to have flexible schedules. If you are offended by this, then you are clearly searching for something to dislike.

    October 17, 2012 10:18 am at 10:18 am |
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