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. Beau Ciel

    Mitt Romney showed his viewpoint on equal pay for women when he asked Paul Ryan to be his running mate. Paul Ryan voted AGAINST the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, along with 209 other Republicans. A total of 7 Republicans in the House and the Senate voted for it.

    October 16, 2012 11:20 pm at 11:20 pm |
  2. Thomas

    Fact check is making the President look like Pinnochio?

    October 16, 2012 11:20 pm at 11:20 pm |
  3. Eva

    I am so happy that Mitt wants to make sure I can get home in time to cook dinner...lol, thats why I got my M.A.

    October 16, 2012 11:20 pm at 11:20 pm |
  4. n

    Let's play the Romney Game called, "What's My Lie"

    October 16, 2012 11:20 pm at 11:20 pm |
  5. Chuck

    Dear Mitt: You might want to stay away from the term "binders full of women"....unless you really think the pre-internet Russian mail order bride voters are going to have a real impact on the election.

    October 16, 2012 11:20 pm at 11:20 pm |
  6. cantmakejusteggs

    Are male employees not also responsible for "having kids at school?" Since it takes a man and a women to produce offspring, I'd assume so. Why is it that women are always the ones indicted for needing "flexibility"?

    October 16, 2012 11:21 pm at 11:21 pm |
  7. Larry in Houston

    LOL – romney is a joke – they brought us "binders" of womens names. Yeah right – If he really cared about the women of this country – he would have done more than that, or just ask about it. I mean, he could have investigated or found out why they were just giving him mens names. WoW !! Hope he goes to the caymans & live like he wants. But, unfortunately, he may be our future commander – in – chief . May the Best Man Win – 2012 Hillary – 2016

    October 16, 2012 11:21 pm at 11:21 pm |
  8. candy

    Romney might be trying very hard, but he can hide this wolf under his sheepskin. "A binder full of women"? As in "A harem full of women"?.

    His "empathy for all"? His "100%"? His "14% tax rate"? All these "Will-say-anything-for-your-vote" pretenses make his "I didn't save a penny in tax by putting my money in off-shore accounts" claim look genuine.

    October 16, 2012 11:21 pm at 11:21 pm |
  9. Samantha

    He failed to mention the number of women he actually hired from that 'binder full of women'!!!!

    October 16, 2012 11:23 pm at 11:23 pm |
  10. Thera

    Sure, Romney talked on and on about "binders full of qualified women" but he never did address how he work to ensure equal pay for women. Can't understand how his reply to the question would be worthy of excitement for anyone, much less women.

    October 16, 2012 11:23 pm at 11:23 pm |
  11. NameNjeri

    Mitt is a liar and changes like a chameleon!!!!! Only a fool would trust him. Mitt, if you really know what you are talking about, avoid generalized empty statements like'I know what it takes and i Will do it.'Just pour the points out don't keep them to yourself. You sound suspicious! We are tired of such cheap lies. !!!!!!!!!!

    October 16, 2012 11:23 pm at 11:23 pm |
  12. Miguel O

    So glad the President Obama did better. I agree it was pretty much even, very glad President's questions were along our philosophies.

    October 16, 2012 11:24 pm at 11:24 pm |
  13. Sandy

    Mr. Romney
    Start revamping your resume...you'll need it come Nov 6th.

    October 16, 2012 11:24 pm at 11:24 pm |
  14. hef

    and Romney is not saying a word about the Bill, just his personal story. He opposes the bill, simple.

    October 16, 2012 11:25 pm at 11:25 pm |
  15. Joe Lukas

    That was not an answer Romney provided it was a story, He clearly did not have an for the millions of women out there tonight.

    October 16, 2012 11:25 pm at 11:25 pm |
  16. ThomasL

    Are you out of your mind..Fact check Thomas has Romney's ....nose up you butt. Obama was clear on what he said. And Romney is a bully and need a whupping..But the Pres kept his cool. Romney just want to be President because it is something to do. I am a veteran and what has he done for the country. His Sons have money and give nothing back.

    October 16, 2012 11:26 pm at 11:26 pm |
  17. barry

    Reality Check has it wrong. In the Rose Garden, the President GLOBALLY referred to terrorism but very clearly did NOT state that this action was an act of terror.

    October 16, 2012 11:26 pm at 11:26 pm |
  18. Jorge UU Boosh

    Romney- the RUDE, ENTITLED RICH GUY who thinks rules dont apply to him. Even rules about debates.

    October 16, 2012 11:26 pm at 11:26 pm |
  19. juan

    He's an advocate of having women go home to cook dinner for the family and then go back to work. I thought this was the 21st century where women are supposed to be treated equal.

    October 16, 2012 11:26 pm at 11:26 pm |
  20. claude

    Women make your binder. Add some pictures.

    October 16, 2012 11:27 pm at 11:27 pm |
  21. rmd

    An interesting evening – I am a working Mom and I and many women in Massachusetts are supporting Romney. We deserve better management of our country.

    October 16, 2012 11:28 pm at 11:28 pm |
  22. Joe Lukas

    Romney's answer to equal pay for women was.... ok as long as your home in time to cook dinner.

    October 16, 2012 11:29 pm at 11:29 pm |
  23. nicole p

    I suppose that women are the only people who take care of children...

    October 16, 2012 11:29 pm at 11:29 pm |
  24. Mark Hammond

    ....binders full of women. Rather than there being a level playing field for women in the workplace, he believes women should be selected from binders – like a mail order bride!

    October 16, 2012 11:30 pm at 11:30 pm |
  25. Scott

    Or a Joy Book!

    October 16, 2012 11:31 pm at 11:31 pm |
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