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

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. dsangiovanni

    They are going to be anxious to hire women ......Ahahahahah!!

    October 17, 2012 12:06 pm at 12:06 pm |
  2. Winston Sardine

    I have been reading that Mitt Romney did not initiate the supposed search for qualified women to join his cabinet when he was governor ...this was done in advance by another organization of women concerned with the inequities of the workplace re career paths & equal pay status , etc. CNN and other media outlets need to hold the ex-governor accountable for his distortions & lies . It was hypocritical of Mr. Romney to ask the President about his pension plan when Romney hasn't addressed the miniscule amount of income tax data he himself has given the American public.

    October 17, 2012 12:06 pm at 12:06 pm |
  3. TheObserver

    Besides being anti-gay, anti-abortion, and pro-"widening the economic inequality gap", why are people voting for Romney? I really would like to know, honestly. I know there are millions of Americans who will vote for Romney because he's pro-life, and they won't look into any other issues no matter how crucial. I know there are millions of Americans who will vote for Romney because he wants to discriminate against gays. I know there are millions of people, especially in the south who will vote for Romney because Obama is black (and apparently a Muslim) and they won't look any farther than skin color. But besides the bigots and hate-mongers and cancers of our country, who is voting for Mitt based on any other issues?

    October 17, 2012 12:07 pm at 12:07 pm |
  4. Blah blah the wheel's off your trailer

    Hehehe. The only way Romney would get my vote is if he promised me a binder full of women. But then again, I don't trust him to deliver on his promises.

    A binder full of women across the country and President Obama perfect together.

    Obama/Biden 2012 by a LANDSLIDE! Hehehehehehehehe.

    October 17, 2012 12:08 pm at 12:08 pm |
  5. gottalovecnn

    Cindy – Great work digging up info on Willard's cabinet, etc. "When I was Gov of Mass" If I hear him say that one more time, I am going to throw a binder at the TV. LMAO!

    October 17, 2012 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
  6. AlwaysLeft06

    There should be an investigation to find out where the Binders were made. I am guessing it was China!!

    October 17, 2012 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
  7. jen58

    please, if you're going to make a comment about this story, at least know the facts...and these are them:

    What actually happened was that in 2002 - prior to the election, not even knowing yet whether it would be a Republican or Democratic administration - a bipartisan group of women in Massachusetts formed MassGAP to address the problem of few women in senior leadership positions in state government. There were more than 40 organizations involved with the Massachusetts Women's Political Caucus (also bipartisan) as the lead sponsor.

    They did the research and put together the binder full of women qualified for all the different cabinet positions, agency heads, and authorities and commissions. They presented this binder to Governor Romney when he was elected.

    So Rmoney's claim that he even 'asked' for a 'binder of women' is a farkin' lie!!

    October 17, 2012 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
  8. hcc2011

    The hate and misogyny of the liberal left has been unbounded since 2008 (the year, BTW, that I stopped being one). Snickering and laughing and making dirty and horrific jokes agains women is PRECISELY why I left your party after 58 years. To anyone with a brain it is obvious that when Mitt said "binders full of women" he was speaking in all innocence and sincerety. Trust a liberal to turn that into a joke. But folks in he heartland see Romney for what he is: a good man and a damned smart one too. He's going to be our next president and I'd gladly join his binder full of women if it will help turn this country away from the sad course it has taken over the past 4 years.

    October 17, 2012 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
  9. TheObserver

    @ Diane

    Oh yes, and right wingers like Rush Limbaugh and Bill O'Reilly are the beacons of responsible media aren't they? They are the standard to which all others should be measured. They are out there to inform people of the truth with no intent to manipulate popular opinion. Yeah right. It goes both ways. Just get ready to lose this election and deal with it.

    October 17, 2012 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
  10. moragami

    It's not what he said, but what he didn't say that was the problem. The question was, what will you do to help further equal pay for women. His answer was, I went out of my way to hire women. A good followup question would have been, did those women receive the same pay as your male workers. The answer to that would have likely been no, and the fact of the matter is, Mitt won't do anything to increase women's pay. In fact, in his vision for corporate America, all workers should.d be happy to make a barely sustainable wage, as l.long as the wealthy can keep on being rich and "creating jobs".

    October 17, 2012 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
  11. Jan

    Just shows how archaic romney is. Wat if he would have noticed there are no people of color in his admin? Insted of a binder, what would he refer to then? He has no clue when it comes to women, his wife has no clue eithr. Th only thing she has in common w most women are thr female parts. Othrwise, she's a pluffed up plastic looking good little woman.

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


    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.


    Not everytime I open my mouth. Additionally, not everyone is running for the highest office in the Nation and as our representative to the rest of the world. I don't want a representative who steps in a big pile of dung and then shoves both feet halfway down his throat everytime he speaks, and that's what we get with the challenger.

    October 17, 2012 12:12 pm at 12:12 pm |
  13. Sue IL

    Binders full of women–Mitt you are fantastic!!!!!! I can remember the days as a young women with a one year certificate for secretarial that all I could get was a minimum wage job, and had to beg for it!!! Four years ago Women saw Obama as their savior, where are they now–lost jobs, lower wages, lost homes, and gas $50 bucks every time you fill up!!! Lost futures for you children!!!

    October 17, 2012 12:14 pm at 12:14 pm |
  14. creed31

    So wait, instead of focusing on the fact that Romney's administration hired more women than any other state, you are focusing on his wording? Instead of focusing on the fact that the women in Obama's administration make 14% less money than the men you focus on this?

    October 17, 2012 12:14 pm at 12:14 pm |
  15. larry

    women should stay home and not have carkeys anyway

    October 17, 2012 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  16. Ron

    cmon now CNN. First its Big Bird, now binders full of women. This is the best you got? How about we talk about Obama's reason behind $1.86/gallon of gas. Or Obama cracking jokes and trying to change the subjecty when asked about his pension investments that include investments in the SAME CHINESE compaines he slammed Romney for not 5 minutes earlier. Or his floundering and uh, uh, uh's when ahsed about cutting oil permits on government land. 62% cut in permits off shore in public water! 35% cut in permits on public land! How about rediculous unemployment and deficits that gets worse every year! These are the real issues, CNN. Not "binders of women." Deplorable. Absolutely deplorable

    October 17, 2012 12:17 pm at 12:17 pm |
  17. rs


    Yes, the "Left" is worse than Rush and FOX who equate women wanting/needing conraceptives to being prostitutes.Get real.
    The ultra-right (based only on actions taken in the House of Representatives) seems utterly obsessed with taking women politically and socially to a pre-Margaret Sanger time frame- and they still support unequal pay for equal work.

    October 17, 2012 12:17 pm at 12:17 pm |
  18. Linda

    On the fence until last nighr debate, MrRomney shows his true beliefs when he is spontaneous. Women are valued in the roles of wife/homemaker and mother as most republican men and women prefer, and don't mention gays. In Romney world white men know what is best for women and minorities. Is that Mitt Romney or is that Ward Cleaver in Romney suit? I have decided to take my chances with Mr Obama and hope that the do nothing Congress will see that voters are not going to tolerate this game that has been played for the last four years.

    October 17, 2012 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  19. rla

    Wow are Democrats scared and how vapid their response!

    October 17, 2012 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  20. Cedar Rapids

    "SickofMediaBias – He INCITED VIOLENCE in the Middle East by constantly pointing to this video that no one seemed to know about until after the attack."

    What nonsense. You know they had been talking about it on tv in the middle east for a few days before the violence right? nah, of course you dont.

    ........"How did the film come to public attention?
    The 14-minute video was first posted on YouTube on 1 July without attracting much attention. It was later picked up by various Arab TV stations, with religious Egyptian TV channel al-Nas' presenter Sheikh Khalad Abdalla broadcasting scenes on 8 September. A clip from his show, dubbed into Arabic, was posted online and within days had been viewed by hundreds of thousands of people."

    October 17, 2012 12:20 pm at 12:20 pm |
  21. rla

    Amazing anything from the progressive crowd but substance??? Opppps they don't have any!

    October 17, 2012 12:20 pm at 12:20 pm |
  22. K

    Who cares about the comment (and whether it really happened or not). What does matter is that he does not address the central question ... equal pay for equal work. He was asked what he has done (or will do) to level the playing field. And his response is that he tried to hire women. That doesn't address the central problem of whether he paid them what he paid their male counterparts ... or what he did to make that practice mandatory.

    October 17, 2012 12:20 pm at 12:20 pm |
  23. 1twinsfan

    It's okay. Mitt still has a debate next week. I understand it's going to be on foreign policy. D'oh!

    October 17, 2012 12:20 pm at 12:20 pm |
  24. Cedar Rapids

    "ron – Deplorable. Absolutely deplorable"

    sorry ron that you seem to have an issue with people pointing out the demeaning comments romney makes. Tell you what, tell him not to make them and then we wont have to comment about them.

    October 17, 2012 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  25. Sniffit

    "So Rmoney's claim that he even 'asked' for a 'binder of women' is a farkin' lie!!"

    Not only that, he was answering a question about whether he would give fair credit to women for their contributions in the workplace BY TAKING CREDIT AWAY FROM WOMEN FOR THEIR CONTRIBUTION TO THE WORKPLACE.

    This was classic Orwellian doublethink.

    October 17, 2012 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |
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