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

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

    who cares if stupid Kim Kardashian supports Mitt Romney. If she didn't make $250,000 and up she wouldn't support him. duhhh. Kim Kardashian does not validate intelligance.

    October 17, 2012 11:22 am at 11:22 am |
  2. cece

    We know what he meant, binders full of women's names. EVERYONE makes slip ups like that especially when you are rushed Who cares about these little flubs. Want to see a flub, look up A123 Systems a clean energy company that Obama gave millions of stimulus money to and has now been found that the executives there gave themselves raises while the company is now in bankruptcy. YOUR money being invested in companies that are just getting off the ground with no guarantee that their product will take off, and being run by greedy execs . Yes we need green energy but is NOW the time to be putting millions into it or should that have gone to help the PEOPLE?

    October 17, 2012 11:22 am at 11:22 am |
  3. Jane

    Romney did well last night. But at times, he was unnecessarily rude. "You'll get your turn. I'm not finished." Really? He could have said that with more finesse and still delivered with firmness. I find Romney contemptuous and un-presidential. Obama should have spoken more about his plans for the next 4 years. They both looked like they would have swung at each other if they could. LOL! Romney clearly looked more upset though. Probably because there was someone ON stage with him challenging his every word. But hey, I would think if Romney is truly confident and believes what he is telling us, he wouldn't have gotten so flustered at being challenged! Most people who are confident in what they are doing don't get that worked up. Someone just needs to keep poking at Romney consistently and I bet we will see a whole other side of him. I think it's the first time I've seen Romney being real. I didn't like it but it was a little amusing. I know these debates are important and the candidates have an important job to compete for and prove to us they can do the job. But geez, ease up a little. Bill Clinton's ease is not just about his speak but also about his demeanor. He overcame the scandalous humps during his presidency was because he knew when to NOT take himself too seriously. Romney, take que from Clinton. If you can that is. It will do you wonders.

    October 17, 2012 11:22 am at 11:22 am |
  4. REallySickofMediaBias

    Kate, Your party stopped the possibility of two women from going to the Whitehouse in the last election!! Really, your guy needed to pick someone like that idiot Biden to be VP and not Hillary Clinton??? I'm a woman and have lived through sexism. I can see plainly where the true anti-women people are based upon their actions. You can pass Lily Ledbetter acts all you want, but it doesn't matter if you don't have a job to begin with!!! All talk and NO ACTION!

    October 17, 2012 11:22 am at 11:22 am |
  5. chris

    Point proved -Mr. Romney is disrespectful towards women (or this would have been phrased in some other way). Makes me wonder who else he disrespects?(gay, veterans, other racial backgrounds..) Do we really want a president like this???
    Now remember how President Obama deals with and interacts with the women in his life. IMO he is the ultimate role model FOR RESPECT!
    Real feelings come out in real actions and words.

    October 17, 2012 11:22 am at 11:22 am |
  6. Wake up People!

    I can't believe the hypocrisy of the republican party. You have the mitigated gall to complain when people call Willard out for his exact words, but the GOP built an entire convention on a phrase of President Obama that was taken out of context. Every word the President says is scrutinized. But we're supposed to ignore Willard's words.

    OBAMA 2012!

    Btw, Willard is a pathological flip flopping liar that wasn't even good enough to be VP in 08, but now he's the cats meow. GMAMFB!

    October 17, 2012 11:22 am at 11:22 am |
  7. Susan

    Romney hired some women because he had backstabbed the acting Republican governor who was a woman. He knew that he would spend four years dealing with angry women constituents so he took steps to protect himself from that. I don't know how he treated his women cabinet members but most pundits agree that he ignored is Lieutenant Governor, Kerry Healy.

    October 17, 2012 11:22 am at 11:22 am |
  8. Woman In California

    I can just hear the skit SNL is preparing on this statement.

    First, it was Big Bird now it's "a binder full of women"

    Oh what a web we weave, when first we practice to deceive.
    Willard should never be anywhere near the White House.

    October 17, 2012 11:23 am at 11:23 am |
  9. obama is Out Of Touch with reality

    Binders full of women is a lot better than debates full of cnn bias moderators like obama loving cindy, knew she was bouht before the debate.

    October 17, 2012 11:24 am at 11:24 am |
  10. oman

    I guess his Lieutenant Gov. was his token woman and his binders full of women, his affirmative action plan.

    October 17, 2012 11:25 am at 11:25 am |
  11. Mom_in_middle

    I think every woman in America should take a picture of themselves, put it in a binder and sent it to Nit-Mitt. Then he would be telling one less lie even if it is post-tense.

    October 17, 2012 11:25 am at 11:25 am |
  12. cogitoergosum

    What's troubling about this, besides the fact that he lied and didn't have the binders until women's groups petitioned him to hire more women, is the fact that he had so few women already around him that he had to rely on others to find them. When you examine his hiring at Bain and in his governorship, you find that he holds the traditional Mormon view of women. Barefoot and pregnant. Any questions?

    October 17, 2012 11:26 am at 11:26 am |
  13. Rationalintn

    Why didn't Mitt Romney know of even one woman that he could have in his cabinet? Why did he need outside assistance? He went to Harvard Business and Law, were there no women in his graduating classes? He ran Bain Capital and he brags about running the Olympics, were there no qualified women in either of those organizations? Guess not, according to Mitt.

    October 17, 2012 11:26 am at 11:26 am |
  14. Lory

    I agree with Kate. Mormons believe women belong at home. How can Romney lead with these beliefs. Yes they cherish women when they are being good housewifes.

    October 17, 2012 11:26 am at 11:26 am |
  15. Malory Archer


    Kate, that won't be the democrats party, see how they treated Hillary. They don't even want a female VP.


    Except we HAD a female on the Democratic ticket in 1984 – a full 24 years before the rethugs came up with the idea. That being said, had Hillary been the Dem nominee, the rethugs were planning to have Colin Powell as McCain's running mate. After his lying – or at least carrying water for the previous occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue – about WMDs in Iraq, there was no way thinking Americans could have voted for him. The rethugs knew that, and planned to whine and cry and call the Dems racists for not supporting him. We were danged if we did/danged if we didn't.

    October 17, 2012 11:27 am at 11:27 am |
  16. The Other Dale

    The bottom line is this: He hired based on gender. It would be just as bad if he proudly announced that he was giving applicants and said, "No! Send me the binder of men!" He told us last night he didn't care who was best for the job, just what body parts they had so he could look good for photo ops. IT's bad business and it's even worse when you think it's something to crow about.

    BTW, when looking at the applications did he single out married women with children? After all, he would only want to hire those that wouldn't have kids shooting up places.

    October 17, 2012 11:27 am at 11:27 am |
  17. Greg

    Mr. Romney's "plan" really doesn't add up. How in the hell are you going to cut all kinds of tax rates, increase military spending, start a shooting war with Iran and a trade war with China and still balance the budget? His answer: "Trust me, I'm a businessman." I'm a businessman too and I don't need a smug politician to to tell me how to add and subtract. George W was a businessman too, look where that got us.

    October 17, 2012 11:27 am at 11:27 am |
  18. Sniffit

    Here, let me break down teh REAL argument for you:

    1. The question was about equal pay for women and gender equality in the workplace, i.e., fair recognition of the controbutions women make to our workplaces, jobs, economy and society.

    2. Mittens, knowing he needs to gain ground with women voters, told a story intended to make it look like he is sensitive about those issues and took action as governor to make a difference.

    3. Turns out, Mittens had nothing to do with the creation of those binders. It was really accomplished by a bi-partisan group of women in an organization called MassGAP that was doing everything it could to promote more gender equality in the Massachusetts government.

    4. Therefore, while answering a question about equal pay and gender equality in the workplace, Mittens spent his time inventing an alternate reality in which he deserves all the credit for something that was actually the work product of a bipartisan group of women at MassGAP.

    5. This shows unmistakably, and particularly because he was doing this in the very context fo gender equality in the workplace and equal pay, just how willing he is to run roughshod over the contributions women make in the workplace and in society in order to further his own self-promotion.

    Check. Your move.

    October 17, 2012 11:27 am at 11:27 am |
  19. oldnevadan

    So what??? We all make speaking gaffs from time to time – especially when under pressure. Obama has certainly made his share, but you never hear about those.

    October 17, 2012 11:28 am at 11:28 am |
  20. Dandelion5

    Independents, Wake Up! The Commission on Presidential Debates is a NONPARTISAN, tax-exempt corporation with a deceptive agenda. ALL of the moderators chosen for 2012 are Democrats. Hmmmm....Be Aware, keep your minds OPEN.

    October 17, 2012 11:28 am at 11:28 am |
  21. Rodney

    This is ridiculous to be talking about such a small phrase. I'm more concern about the economy than Mitt Romney so called binders episode. People get a life if you so stuck in the stone age.

    October 17, 2012 11:28 am at 11:28 am |
  22. Bart

    The big point that is being missed here is Romney was asked what he would do for women (other than not stepping up for equal pay for women by defending the Ledbetter Act) and he merely said that he wanted to hire women in his cabinet and looked ridiculous giving an answer that does not say anything about how his policies would help women.

    October 17, 2012 11:28 am at 11:28 am |
  23. BD

    This election season is a choice form Americans between mediocrity and disaster. Personally I feel Obama represents mediocraty and Romney disaster but I wouldn't argue too strongly if someone felt the opposite.

    Obama has some great policy ideas but his bad ones are almost equal in number, similarly he's done some great things but the stupid/incorrect things he's done have been about equal.

    On the flip side, Romney seems like the pyro kid who's solution to every problem is to throw gas on the fire. Obama may be wrong about his solutions to the country's problems but Romney's solutions look even worse. Its my opinion buty I cringe at the tought of an election being based on voting for the guy with a lower level of wrongness.

    On the bright side, at least its not a Pelosi-Palin ballot. I suppose every family has a black sheep though.

    October 17, 2012 11:28 am at 11:28 am |
  24. Bonnie

    I actually had to walk away when I heard him say he actually went looking for women to fill the position. What a line of BS.......

    October 17, 2012 11:29 am at 11:29 am |
  25. Malory Archer


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


    Are they doing the same jobs as their male counterparts?

    October 17, 2012 11:29 am at 11:29 am |
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