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

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. Thomas

    @SueR
    You have to look beyond the nickpicking and see the substance behind the men. Romney has more on the ball than Obama – hands down.

    ===============

    I see the Father of 5 sons , whom all avoided volunteering for military service during times of war , wars they supported .

    October 17, 2012 11:07 am at 11:07 am |
  2. Pi Boson

    A mannequin does not realize deceit, a mannequin does not understand lies. Furthermore, the former Mass governor does not realize the constituency will eventually see that the Romney mystical plans are not what America needs. We the people deserve Obama as his vision, his plans, his leadership is the optimal solution for today's America.

    October 17, 2012 11:08 am at 11:08 am |
  3. Malory Archer

    John in Ohio

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

    ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

    Er, not really. In MA, the Governor & Lt. Governor don't run on the same ticket. Voters cast a ballot for each office.

    October 17, 2012 11:08 am at 11:08 am |
  4. glades2

    Incredible – we live in a time when every word, every word – is measured under a microscope – some forget that he is married to a woman...

    October 17, 2012 11:09 am at 11:09 am |
  5. Anonymous

    Who cares..Mitt Romney knows business and if he has binders full of woman that have qualifications. Big deal its not like its any thing sexual. Of course in our sex driven media and society you base everything around that. But in all reality it was resumes and background experience. Noting big nothing sexual. Grow up.

    October 17, 2012 11:09 am at 11:09 am |
  6. kate

    Women...please do not vote for Romney. The Mormons believe that a womans place is in the home, and they should abide by the religious counsel of their husbands. We not only need women in the home, but we need them everywhere. When is this country going to allow a woman to be president?

    October 17, 2012 11:09 am at 11:09 am |
  7. Lysette

    Romney's comments were shockingly insulting – he was proud of making his cabinet LOOK like MA was fair and equal, rather than doing something about the fact women were not "qualified". Also if you listen later on in the piece he effectively says it's fine to not hire women because they have more limited availablitly, endorsing the sterotypical crap. Plenty of families have women as the main breadwinner and men as the primary caregiver now, gender sterotyping to justify the glass ceiling is seriously missplaced in a presidential candidate.

    October 17, 2012 11:09 am at 11:09 am |
  8. ohgran

    John in Ohio

    "The highest-ranking woman in his administration was his number two, Lieutenant Gov. Kerry Healey." Enough said
    ---
    John, was she elected or appointed? Enough said!

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

    SNL please- THIS WOULD BE FUNNY on your show "Binders Full of Women" What a Mitt- QUACK QUACK

    October 17, 2012 11:09 am at 11:09 am |
  10. chuck

    It is stunning how MUCH smarter and competent Obama is compared to Mittster. Mitt looked like a scared deer in the headlights, last night his wife drained and anxious. Obama and Michelle, portray grace, intelligence and above all sincere about helping ALL Americans, ALL Americans.. Karma will carry Obama through...

    October 17, 2012 11:10 am at 11:10 am |
  11. Sam

    I obviously see why there never is an adult discussion over issues in the USA. Democrats only look at sound bites instead of actions. When we hire, makes no difference where you are, you are presented with files of prospective candidates. These files need to be collated somehow. Look at substance, people. Actions noted in the answer:
    1) Was not satisfied with diversity of the screening process so asked for more possibilities.
    2) Consulted with outside interest groups closely linked with target group.
    3) Employed diversity in his hiring process.

    As an aside, the telliung point of the question is that this canard was posed differently than normally. The question mentions «72% of what their male counterparts earn». They do NOT earn 72% of what their male counterparts earn. They earn 72% of what all males earn .... that expands the base and allows for the 72% comparison. Be honest and ask yourself, do YOU earn 72% of what the male next to you, doing the same job, earns? Honestly?

    October 17, 2012 11:10 am at 11:10 am |
  12. Vote 2012

    Fry up the bacon and put it in a pan and don't forget you can leave work early so you can go home and take care of those youngens. lol This guy is not qualified to be POTUS, he's a professional salesman, and he's a stupid idiot. How in the world could those to hot heads-Romey-Ryan, lead this country? It's a frightning thought like waking from a night mare, no way no how could they even begin to communicate with leaders of other nations, hell they're so stupid they've already pissed off our allies. Throw the bumbs out and take their republican congress and senate with them.

    October 17, 2012 11:10 am at 11:10 am |
  13. Kay

    So disgusting! Take the phrase "binder full of women", dwell on it, and the president still doesn't defend his record, AGAIN !!! The media takes over and this is what thousands of people end up focusing on. It is so pathetic when our country has so many problems.

    October 17, 2012 11:10 am at 11:10 am |
  14. Malory Archer

    Anonymous

    These comments make me laugh. I am a young woman in a very heavily male dominated field and I don't need someone to enforce that I get equal pay. I work harder than some of the men so I make more than some of them. Some of them make more than me.

    +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

    How do you know? Does your employer publish the earnings amount of each employee for everyone else to see?

    October 17, 2012 11:10 am at 11:10 am |
  15. nora

    "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.'".

    He even LIED about that!! The book was put together by a women's group in Massachusetts and GIVEN to (R)money. He didn't request it-it was handed to him by WOMEN trying to get more WOMEN into the higher reaches of government. That man will LIE about anything. I guess he figures we are too stupid to know any better.

    October 17, 2012 11:11 am at 11:11 am |
  16. Tallybo

    Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't the Lt. Gov. of Mass. an elected office? If so, Romney had no say whatsoever in who held that office, male or female.

    October 17, 2012 11:11 am at 11:11 am |
  17. FredUp2

    As a bishop, Romney would get files on women that were single mothers, who he would advise to give up their kids for adoption, since they obviously could never get husbands, in his view. He hinted at that last night in a point about assault rifles. He said you can't raise a decent family without two parents, inferring that single mothers' kids were going to turn to a life of crime and become gang members. These religious based, extreme conservative ideas of what is "right" for ideal families don't belong in politics, or even in the 21st century, for that matter. If Mitt claims to be in favor of more rights for women, then why do he and his cohorts share so many views about women with the Taliban? His flipping on issues and agendas he pushed to win conservatives over to get the Republican nomination, just so he can seem more moderate for the Presidential race, is yet another testament to his lack of conviction and a need to say whatever it takes, no matter what he may really believe. These constant lies have defined him as a person that cannot be trusted. He probably does advocate contraception, for the poor, and likely sterilization as well. Whatever it takes to get their grubby little hands off of his piles of untaxed money, right?

    October 17, 2012 11:11 am at 11:11 am |
  18. TioBoosie

    For all those touting the alleged Affirmative Action of Romney as evidence of his compassion for gender inequality, what's best about this story is that it isn't even true.

    October 17, 2012 11:11 am at 11:11 am |
  19. Chuck Hendrix

    @CTVoter. Romney clearly avoided answering the question"What would you do to insure equal pay for women". His response was he would re-arrange business so women could get home in time to cook dinner. Just because you have blinders on are a simple puppet, does not mean all women are.

    October 17, 2012 11:11 am at 11:11 am |
  20. carmelita

    Lets put some men in binders. Then on a shelf.

    October 17, 2012 11:12 am at 11:12 am |
  21. Lizzie

    The few women who work in the present WH making far less then the men, now that's what President Obama says is fair.

    October 17, 2012 11:13 am at 11:13 am |
  22. MV

    Why was gasoline cheap at 1.80 US dollar 4 years ago and now it is 4 US dollars. Do you know the Crude barrel price in international market was 10 dollars a barrel then, now it is 100 dollars a barrel. The President of USA doesn't control that the gloabla demand and supply determines that !

    October 17, 2012 11:13 am at 11:13 am |
  23. LILY

    It is sad that the Democrats think that women are so stupid, that the only thing that matters to them is pleasing their man, that using contraception to be ready to get it on at any moment (to please their man) is their main concern–REALLY DEGRADING TO WOMEN! More women are living in poverty than ever before-most of those are raising children(guess contraception isn't a priority to them) and Obama has done ZERO to improve their lives!

    October 17, 2012 11:14 am at 11:14 am |
  24. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    How about that other winning line about how he would grwo the economy to such great proportions that employers would be anxious to hire women?!
    WTH?!
    So the economy has to be booming in order for us to get hired? Really?
    Women for Romney has got to be one of the biggest oxymorons EVER.
    Obama 2012.

    October 17, 2012 11:14 am at 11:14 am |
  25. coolbreeze

    SNL-this would be funny on your show- Mitt telling women that he wants them to have an opportunity to leave work early so that they can go home and COOK!

    October 17, 2012 11:14 am at 11:14 am |
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