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. Nick

    "Binder full of Women" ??? May be next thing he would say "Pocket full of Middle Class".

    October 17, 2012 11:29 am at 11:29 am |
  2. pmn

    Making a comparison to Hugh Hefner of binders full of women is wrong! The binder's Romney is referring to are qualified educated women wanting making an honest living. To make assumptions before explanation is just ignorance. He is just stating many women are in the workforce. We need a business man who knows how to manage money not just spend it. Romney is the best choice for the next presidential term. 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."

    October 17, 2012 11:29 am at 11:29 am |
  3. ememen

    As funny as it may sound and it is, Willard is a good man but its mind boggling because he doesn’t have a stand or a policy to back his good deeds. Like Biden said the other day show me a policy Mitt.

    October 17, 2012 11:29 am at 11:29 am |
  4. Cindy

    Gov. Romney Cabinet in Mass.
    27 members
    11 Dem. 16 Rep.
    1- Dem. women -Elder Affairs
    8- Rep. women – Consumer Affairs & Bus. Affairs
    Housing & Communtiy Devepl.
    Bus. Technology

    October 17, 2012 11:31 am at 11:31 am |
  5. carlos

    is that how he got his anne???...from a binder???....really nauseating..UGH

    October 17, 2012 11:31 am at 11:31 am |
  6. Sniffit

    The point is that he was lying. HE DID NOT CREATE, NOR DID HE INSTIGATE THE CREATION OF, THOSE BINDERS. He was, in fact, trying to take credit away from the women's group, MassGAP, that did all the research independently and shoved the bnder in his arrogant sexist face because he was the one who won the election.

    Let me repeat: HE TRIED TO TAKE CREDIT AWAY FROM THE WOMEN WHO ACTUALLY PUT IT TOGETHER.

    And you expect him to be someone who actually respects the contributions women make in the workplace and society?

    WRONG.

    October 17, 2012 11:31 am at 11:31 am |
  7. ck_one

    So, Romney "was able to get so many good women to be part of that team ...because of our recruiting effort" how is that any different from a college or university going out and recruiting qualified minority applicants?

    October 17, 2012 11:32 am at 11:32 am |
  8. Bart

    I love how he said how employers need to be flexible so women can go home at 5:00 and take care of their children and make dinner for the family. I am sure women voters love that – you can work outside the home, but you had better tend to your duties at home: cooking and cleaning. His policies will reflect this attitude, as well as his Supreme Court picks.

    October 17, 2012 11:32 am at 11:32 am |
  9. Andrew

    After I pondered the comment, you have to ask yourself about the intelligence of Gov. Romney's staff and chief of staff. I appreciate and understand you want to get the most qualified candidates, but you'd also imagine they'd think it through completely and see if there were any female or minority candidates that could fill those roles as well. Plus, he had to go recruiting after he was elected? Shouldn't they have been thinking about that and drafting those lists while the election is happening? You'd think it would've came up in conversations. Plus he didn't answer the question. The question was about equal pay for women, not getting women in the workforce. It sounded like an answer straight out of the 60s and 70s, and not 2012. I'm not sure if he endeared himself to women voters with that response.

    October 17, 2012 11:32 am at 11:32 am |
  10. A working woman

    Mitt was more concerned about saying how women need to go home early to take care of children and cook dinner (a woman's real duty) rather than how he will ensure that they get paid the same as men.

    October 17, 2012 11:32 am at 11:32 am |
  11. Alice

    So in response to the question: "How would you ensure that women are treated fairly in the workplace?" Romney's response is, "Hey, I hired a woman once!"

    Fantastic. That solves the problem completely.

    October 17, 2012 11:34 am at 11:34 am |
  12. Cindy

    Gov. Romney Cabinet in Mass.
    27 members
    11 Dem. 16 Rep.
    1- Dem. women -Elder Affairs
    8- Rep. women – Consumer Affairs & Bus. Affairs
    Housing & Communtiy Devepl.
    Bus. Technology

    I could only find information on 1 on those women!

    October 17, 2012 11:34 am at 11:34 am |
  13. glades2

    "Birds of a feather" applies to those who frequent this site – there are those like myself who are outliers and post here anyway, but most here are of one opinion and nothing will convince them otherwise...

    October 17, 2012 11:35 am at 11:35 am |
  14. Malory Archer

    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.

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

    LOL!!! You do realize you contradicted yourself in these two sentences, don't you? Or maybe you don't.

    October 17, 2012 11:35 am at 11:35 am |
  15. Thomas

    What about 'Binders full of Gay Woman ' dose he have those also ?

    No wonder Romney took all the hard drives from all the computers when he left office as Governor .

    October 17, 2012 11:35 am at 11:35 am |
  16. Jon

    Yeah, it's incredibly demeaning and crazy that Romney was given lists of qualified women for political positions. What were they thinking? I would laugh at the liberal ability to twist almost anything into an issue if it wasn't such a blatant tactic to derail the conversation away from the issues that matter.

    October 17, 2012 11:36 am at 11:36 am |
  17. Jane

    @ Reese
    I find your comment stereotyping women offensive. It's not just hurtful to women, but to society. I guess you are attempting to sound educated by using words like "pandering" but in actuality, you are bigoted and discriminatory. ALL women deserve equal pay and equal rights. This is not some new issue. Equality for women has been an issue since forever in this country and in the world. For you to carve out and say Obama is pandering to a specific group of women is just divisive and narrow minded, not to mention hateful.

    October 17, 2012 11:36 am at 11:36 am |
  18. riabm60

    Cowley should have stopped the debate, i like to know more about binders.....

    October 17, 2012 11:36 am at 11:36 am |
  19. run2nite

    And THEN, Mitt followed up with a comment to the effect of – you have to be more flexible working with women because their schedule demands that they go home and cook dinner. Whaaaaaa?? That's not an exact quote but you get the idea. Oh, Mitt, I wax my kitchen floors wearing a ballgown too.

    October 17, 2012 11:37 am at 11:37 am |
  20. Tom Winnipeg

    What on earth is wrong with the US media. Tearing people apart because their sentence structure was not perfect when they were publicly speaking. The sensationalist US media disgusts me. Everyone knows what Romney meant - that there were binders full of information on female candidates for the jobs. This horribly confrontational approach just hurts the USA in the long run.

    October 17, 2012 11:37 am at 11:37 am |
  21. Tim

    To critical thinker: Resumes at that period of time were routinely placed in folders/binders. I know, I was a manager of HR and I later joined an HR software company. Todays world of virtual folders and resume tracking/searches were not efficient. For upper level jobs/executive positions exclusively hardcopy. Know your technological history and how we move from one technology into another before making braod inaccurate statements. Cost of memory, ability to scan and text recognition and graphics was at a far different place and inadequate not to mention costly.

    October 17, 2012 11:37 am at 11:37 am |
  22. Will

    Fits right in with: "I can't have any illegal immigrants working for me...I'm running for President..."

    October 17, 2012 11:38 am at 11:38 am |
  23. Ginny

    I cannot believe, as a woman, that there are so many postings per "binderof women"! Wake-up people – please blog about our national economy or forign policies. I am undecided and this is an example of the silly bickering that turns me off to this election! Our nation faces serious issues – we as American's will profit greaty by engaging in intelligent blogging about issues rather than attempts to laugh at either candidate!

    October 17, 2012 11:38 am at 11:38 am |
  24. run2nite

    Asked what each candidate would do to ensure gender pay equity, Romney delivered a response that included nothing about pay equity, but did include a lie about “binders full of women,” and a reference to women needing “flexibility” in the workplace so they can be home to make dinner.

    October 17, 2012 11:39 am at 11:39 am |
  25. DMP

    If Big Bird and this is the best the left can do, then Romney has the campaign sewed up. This is pathetic. This is what you resort to when you don't have a record or a plan you can run on.

    October 17, 2012 11:39 am at 11:39 am |
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