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

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- 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. R

    After 25 years of running "small business"...i.e. Multi $BILLION$ Bain Capital, Romney apparently did not know or have any "qualified" woman associates or prospective employees...didn't have a single one, had to be provided "binders" to select a good appearance quota of woman to put in small minded positions.

    October 17, 2012 12:24 pm at 12:24 pm |
  2. d

    "binder full of women" come on the teenagers tweeting that think this is funny should also start telling their fart jokes. That's when they are done playing x-box.

    October 17, 2012 12:24 pm at 12:24 pm |
  3. Sniffit

    "In Romney world white men know what is best for women and minorities. "

    It's the "Rich Man's Burden."

    October 17, 2012 12:25 pm at 12:25 pm |
  4. Name Diane Hombach

    I hope you mitt lovers have health insur cause under mitt you will not..Oh, never mind Prez Obama will be reelected and you will be saved!!!!!

    October 17, 2012 12:25 pm at 12:25 pm |
  5. Biasisbad

    This sound bite has been completely blown out of proportion and is being spun in an irresponsible light by the media. Look at the quote. "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 never said he had binders full of women it clearly says that WOMEN'S GROUPS BROUGHT THESE BINDERS TO HIM. How is this any different for an employer going to a staffing agency and asking them for recommendations and they respond with a list of candidates that can do the job. Maybe they put that list in a binder for organization? Media bias is unbelievable.

    October 17, 2012 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  6. The Dude

    "Binders full of women". Well, Mel Brooks must have had it right when he said "It's good to be da king"

    October 17, 2012 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  7. Buckeye

    @ Sue IL. You must be a Bain Sensata victim. Your savior Willard up and shipped your job to China even though it was profitable here in the United States. If you keep wishing it hard enough, myabe just maybe some of that trickle down will work its way to you. Fact is, corporate profits are at record highs - this is indisputable...so why you complain about lower wages, ask yourself why Romney and his plutocrats are shipping profitable jobs to China. Couldn't be greed could it? What has Willard done with his job creator tax cut? He hasn't created a job here in the US. He hasn't even created a job for himself in over 6 years! He has hid his money in the Cayman's and Switzerland, but nothing for job creation.
    While President Obama wants to provide tax cuts for companies that hire here and punish the outsourcers like Willard and Bain, you misdirect your anger at the President and give the guilty person a pass. yup, just keep thinking that that trickle down will flood you with wealth, LOL at you.

    October 17, 2012 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  8. Will

    So in all his years in the private sector, he never met women who he would recruit into his administration in Mass.? Really? He had to suddenly go look for them?

    Bain – no female partners. What does that say about his view of women in the workplace?

    October 17, 2012 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  9. SMKO

    Mitt Romney has the capability to twist the truth, lie and mislead. If this is what you want your president to be capable of doing, then vote for Romney.

    October 17, 2012 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  10. how many women are in obama's cabinet?

    mitt had more women in his massachussetts cabinet than any other governor, by far...

    so what if he used the wrong expression to say how many women he advocated for to work in his cabinet...the point is, he advocated for women!

    leftists love getting caught up in the pettiest things...typical liberals...

    October 17, 2012 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  11. Name OutOfTheBox

    Republican platform regarding women:

    Keep 'em barefoot and pregnant.

    October 17, 2012 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  12. Pam from Iowa

    too bad he never answered the question.....

    October 17, 2012 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  13. jj

    Binders full of women will be voting for President Obama

    October 17, 2012 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  14. Larry L

    @Jane, American from Texas

    The comment threw our president off guard because he has NO experience in creating jobs and doesn't know what a resume looks like.
    The President's policies have created millions of jobs and in spite of Republican obstructionism the economy has been turned around. Romney speaks of his time as Governor of Massachusetts – where they dropped to 47th in job creation during his tenure as a "job creator". The jobs he created at Bain Capital were done to create a vulture capitalism company. They plundered other companies and shareholders did make huge sums of money. Many people from formerly productive companies saw their companies ravaged and discarded like trash – leaving them without a job or a pension they had earned. If that's the sort of "job creator" experience you're looking for you're welcome to him. I prefer a President who doesn't consider the 47% of disabled veterans, senior citizens, students, and unemployed Americans to be parasites on our society.

    October 17, 2012 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  15. Evan

    The binders thing was funny but what he said before was not. He said his aids brought he only the most competent for the positions and that the list was exclusively made of men. He had to go out of his way, with binders and all, to find competent women?????? Mind you not as qualified apparently but women ┬┤cause we all know appearances matter.

    How many women did he employed in Bain Capital? How many on management? None!!!

    October 17, 2012 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  16. bmesc

    His whole response seemed to imply that there are so many qualified women available, that the law of supply and demand says you can pay them less. The ONLY way Romney has ever suggested workers get paid more is under the scenario that the economy becomes so hot, and workers become so scarce, that employers would HAVE to pay more to get and keep them. So, according to him, 23 million hires later, maybe worker wages will start to go up.

    October 17, 2012 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  17. Carlos

    utterly stupid criticism

    October 17, 2012 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  18. Lindsay C

    I am a working female with children and an independent. I found nothing offensive the comment NOR did I think he was relating flexibility in the workforce to "going to cook for your man." If a democrat spoke of a "flexible" workforce or made the same comment, people would be cheering and saying "See! He is pro-women!" Get over yourselves. It is stuff like this that makes me WANT to vote Romney! SOOOOO sick of people who only view the world from a rigid political platform.

    October 17, 2012 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  19. JH

    really? actual women in binders.... he obviously meant binders full of resumes of women who were qualified for the positions he was wanting to fill with women. how can anyone find offense in that?

    October 17, 2012 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  20. Hoosier53

    I can't believe this! The future of this country is hinging in the balance – all the issues right now! And this is what the democrats are talking about ?!?!? Shallow and stupid doesn't even begin to cover it!

    October 17, 2012 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  21. Bushy Walrus

    So in all this discussion with the GOP where are your poster boys from years gone by? Dick "shoot em in the face" Chaney and "W"? They must be in the witness protection program........... talk about low profile or no profile....wow!

    October 17, 2012 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  22. Larry L


    I'm glad that there are news stations which can be trusted to share non-biased information with the american public. Too bad it's not CNN.
    I'll bet you're talking about Fox News... the more you listen the less you know...

    October 17, 2012 12:33 pm at 12:33 pm |
  23. John

    .Romney shows up in a pair of desiner blue jeans talking about eating cheesy grits, being just one of the boys.
    His parents sent him to exclusiive private schools from 1st grade thru college When as he every been exposed to the real world?

    exposed to the real world?

    October 17, 2012 12:33 pm at 12:33 pm |
  24. sickofit

    Romney....grasping for straws "how much is your pension?" to Obama..... It just goes to show you how far out of touch with the average Americans BOTH of these guys are. Romney for bringing it up and Obama for not acknowledging the fact that almost no one in the private sector (the majority) even gets a "pension" anymore. We need to stop funding all these golden pensions and health care plans for governement workers. The private sector simply can't afford it. They all need to fund their own retirement plans and pay for their own health insurance.....LIKE THE REST OF US!

    October 17, 2012 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  25. rajb

    LOL – A Mormon with "binders full of women".

    October 17, 2012 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
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