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. 1twinsfan

    Needing to ask for binders full of women tells you that employing women in his administration was an after-thought. The leave work to go home and cook dinner comment is beyond insulting.

    October 17, 2012 11:53 am at 11:53 am |
  2. juliequan

    If this is all the Obama media came away with, if this is all that they can talk about then I guess Obama's performance was pretty weak! This is the saddest attempt at distraction tried yet by "professional" news organizations...Did Obama do so poorly that there is nothing of substance to discuss without giving the edge to Romney? Romney focused on the record of the last 4 yrs and, yes, I guess there really isn't much there that can be bragged about!

    October 17, 2012 11:54 am at 11:54 am |
  3. Lynn

    Needing and seeking binders full of women = Affirmative Action. But isn't the Republican party AGAINST Affirmative Action? And he never answered the question about equal pay. He only provided a case for continuing Affirmative Action and only if the hired women can get home in time to tend to the children and cook dinner for the man in their life making 28% more than they are! SMH. OBAMA2012

    October 17, 2012 11:54 am at 11:54 am |
  4. Blursd

    You know what I think is funny ... If Obama had said the same thing you it wouldn't be an issue with all these people. "Oh, we'll Obama is going out there and actively trying to find women for his cabinet.". Mitt Romeny says it and it's twisted into some kind of sinister comment.

    Hypocrisy ...

    October 17, 2012 11:54 am at 11:54 am |
  5. gottalovecnn

    Women....Listen up......Obama has your back.......Romney has his own.

    October 17, 2012 11:55 am at 11:55 am |
  6. Martoon

    Here's a slip that CNN made today... they have a link on the home page that says that the Tigers beat the Yankees last night 3-0. The score was actually 2-1. CNN, how does it feel to get something flat out wrong rather than simply mis-speaking?

    October 17, 2012 11:56 am at 11:56 am |
  7. Lee

    People think for yourselves and look at content, substance, and records, quit listening to and focusing metaphors and rhetoric!

    October 17, 2012 11:56 am at 11:56 am |
  8. Lynda/Minnesota

    "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."

    Went to women's groups? To help us find folks? Whole binders full?

    Well then, Mr. Mittens. OK.

    October 17, 2012 11:56 am at 11:56 am |
  9. AlwaysLeft06

    The only way Romney lets women leave work early is if they can prove they are going home to take care of their man. Other than that stay late and work!!!

    October 17, 2012 11:56 am at 11:56 am |
  10. Mike

    Seriously? Really? Is Big Bird and "binders of women" the best talking points you have? This election is much, much more important than Big Bird and "binders of women". Get real, CNN.

    October 17, 2012 11:57 am at 11:57 am |
  11. coolbreeze

    " If it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck and walks like a duck, it's a duck" Mitt Romney for president

    October 17, 2012 11:57 am at 11:57 am |
  12. Joe Kenya

    Can't stop laugh9ing; the pinups of the 80's was exactly what I was thinking:

    October 17, 2012 11:57 am at 11:57 am |
  13. Malory Archer

    Guest

    The moderator was WRONG, read Obamas transcript you blind followers!

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

    Why read transcripts that can be doctored to say whatever the presenter wants when the internet is chock full of video clips of the rose garden moment that prove President Obama's challenger to be the liar that he is and you the useful idiot mittens hopes you'll continue to be.

    October 17, 2012 11:59 am at 11:59 am |
  14. oman

    Speaking of equal pay. What about the jobs being outsourced to China by the company Romney is heavily invested in?
    Jobs outsourced because Romney wants lower paid workers.

    October 17, 2012 11:59 am at 11:59 am |
  15. Joe Kenya

    Emiko "As a woman, I felt this was one of Romney's strongest points of the night because he spoke from experience. I know what he really meant by "binders full of women"

    Emiko (like the name) I assure you, you did not understand what Romeny meant; look at this article's photo's again

    October 17, 2012 12:00 pm at 12:00 pm |
  16. David

    That entire answer by Romney was one of the most sexist things I've ever heard a politician say, and he said it fully believing that he was empowering women with his answer.

    Ridiculous.

    October 17, 2012 12:00 pm at 12:00 pm |
  17. DavidKnows

    As usual from Mitt Romney, his statement is incorrect, actually it's a lie. He didn't request anything, women's groups had put these 'binders full of women' together before the election. Romney needed them because he didn't know any female executives, having precisely none at Bain. And while he hired them, by the time he was done there were fewer women in leadership positions than under the previous administration. (And personally, I thought he was ready to punch Candy Crowley when she, a woman, had the audacity to correct him on his remarks about Libya.)

    October 17, 2012 12:00 pm at 12:00 pm |
  18. Malory Archer

    Tom

    Not sure why this statement would be offensive to anyone. Whenever I have an opening, the HR dept sends me a binder of resumes.

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

    Did HR separate those binders by gender?

    October 17, 2012 12:01 pm at 12:01 pm |
  19. The fact is

    Mitt Romney is binders full of flip-flops.

    October 17, 2012 12:02 pm at 12:02 pm |
  20. Malory Archer

    dave

    equal pay for women? Women are not suppossed to be the family leaders, if they would marry well and stay married they wouldnt need equal pay. Women will always be paid less due to their monthly issues , family issues etc.... They just are not as dedicated as their male counterparts. And yes, this was a better country by any account, when most women were married and stayed home .

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    Dave, you forgot to close with . At least I hope you did.

    October 17, 2012 12:03 pm at 12:03 pm |
  21. CitzenofUSA

    Binders? More nonsense from the left. They will latch on to anything to avoid talking about President Obama's record. It will be a sad day for America if a campaign based upon distracting and dividing the country succeeds.

    October 17, 2012 12:03 pm at 12:03 pm |
  22. Diane

    Give me a break. How crude and irresponsible the liberals are with the media. Doesn't everybody say things a little different than what they mean. For example, what did the Pres. really mean when in the 10th paragraph of 13 paragraphs in his first speech in the Rose Garden after the killing of the US ambassador and 3 other in Libya, he mention war on terror never mentioning that it was an act of terrorism. Two different things. Thanks Ms. Candy Crowley for giving Obama 4 extra minutes last night and in the first debate they gave him 4 extra minutes also.

    October 17, 2012 12:04 pm at 12:04 pm |
  23. L. Ruth

    The bigger and more important question the "binder" comment raises is why did Romeny need to solicit input in order to find qualified women for his cabinet? Did he not know any potential women cabinet members through his business world connections? Through Bain? Through the Olympics? To me the whole thing highlights his attitudes toward women in leadership positions.....it appears that in 2002 he had to scramble to find women for his Mass. cabinet because it would reflect well on his political ambitions. 2002! Not 1952!

    October 17, 2012 12:04 pm at 12:04 pm |
  24. Malory Archer

    dave

    equal pay for women? Women are not suppossed to be the family leaders, if they would marry well and stay married they wouldnt need equal pay. Women will always be paid less due to their monthly issues , family issues etc.... They just are not as dedicated as their male counterparts. And yes, this was a better country by any account, when most women were married and stayed home .

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

    Dave, you forgot to end your post with: Sarcasm Off. At least I hope you did.

    October 17, 2012 12:04 pm at 12:04 pm |
  25. AJOJO1959

    I can't wait to see Sat Night Live spoof , with a binder full of pop up women, LOL

    October 17, 2012 12:06 pm at 12:06 pm |
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