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. Dean

    Romney – 2
    Obama – 0

    October 17, 2012 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  2. Cedar Rapids

    "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!"

    My right leaning, professional wife was very indignant over the comment. And of course he was talking about picking up the kids or cooking dinner when he spoke about being flexible, dont be silly.

    October 17, 2012 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  3. terriebari

    Romney did NOT NOT NOT go to his staff and ask about women. Women's coalitions formed lists of available women and pushed for participation BEFORE HE WAS EVEN ELECTED! His record as governor was horrible. The state was a complete mess by the time he got through- increase property taxes, dramatics cuts and job loss. I don't even know how he got this far, but is its not due to his record, that's for sure.

    October 17, 2012 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  4. At

    I hate to be the bearer if bad news to those who say mitt wont treat women equally bc of his Mormon religion. But in The Christian and Muslim women aren't equal in those religions texts. How do I know. Cause I've read the entire bible and the quaran

    October 17, 2012 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  5. rp

    Oh, so he had binders full of qualified women from which to hire. The question was to pay equality...was he looking to hire women because he saw a bargain in paying them less? He never answered what he did to raise the compensation in the workplace.

    October 17, 2012 12:55 pm at 12:55 pm |
  6. SDG

    That's right, women are far from individual human beings in Romney's unhindered & unsolicited opinion, they are merely pawns to his personal agenda that he collects by the binder full.

    October 17, 2012 12:55 pm at 12:55 pm |
  7. terriebari

    It's not the binder comment that is so disturbing. It's the outright lie he told about going to his staff ans seeking out women to fill positions. He most certainly did NOT do that. The "binder" he spoke of was created well before he was even elected, but women's coalitions pushing to put women into government rolls. He clearly said he went to his staff looking for women and that is a LIE.

    October 17, 2012 12:55 pm at 12:55 pm |
  8. Steve Morash

    Every time I hear Romney say "My state" my skin crawls.
    He spent the past six years since he left the Governor's Office deriding the Commonwealth. Now it's his state. Where exactly is he from? He's not from here!
    As far as women are concerned, Romney forgets that after he "saved" the Olympics (when was the last unsaved Olympics) the first thing he did was throw then Governor Jane Swift to the curb and walk over her for the Republican nomination. Don't be fooled. He'll say what anyone wants to hear. He is now #1 on the Great American Political Flip Flop List!

    October 17, 2012 12:55 pm at 12:55 pm |
  9. Pepou

    Haven't we been enough humiliated in the world with Bush's eccentricities, mangling the English language and making a fool of himself? Please spare us that Mitt Romney!

    October 17, 2012 12:55 pm at 12:55 pm |
  10. nasa1

    These binders were brought to Mitt from women's groups!....Duh!

    October 17, 2012 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  11. Marie

    If Romney is voted into office, there is going to be a lot of issues in this country besides a rising deficit. What happened to separation of state and church? By voting in a hard-core Mormon, what little separation there is will be *gone*. And then what happens to those of us who don't believe in a god? Where does that put our rights? Us women won't be in control of what happens to our bodies, America won't have any small businesses left, and what Romney doesn't get is that for him and all of his "buddies" to remain rich, there has to be a lower class. If Romney has his way, the lower class will starve to death because, if you take how he has run his companies (sending them overseas) and apply it to every other company, there won't be any left in America. There will be three classes: Romney rich, soldiers, and dead/dirt poor. Romney has no idea how to run a country. I personally would hate to see a man like that, a liar and a bad business man, in charge of our country.

    October 17, 2012 12:58 pm at 12:58 pm |
  12. OCCaVoter

    When a presidential candidate's "solution" to the automatic_weapons_problem is for "kids to get married sooner" , you have absolutely no business talking about Obama or anyone else............That has to be one of the most_monumentallyStupid things anyone has EVER SAID , much less a presidential candidate

    October 17, 2012 12:58 pm at 12:58 pm |
  13. OneBinderShort

    It's good to know that of all the really important issues, the fate of this nation is trumped by a throw-away sound bite.

    October 17, 2012 01:00 pm at 1:00 pm |
  14. DR

    No Mitt, that is the joy book you were thinking of. (Potential multiple wives book from the flock).

    October 17, 2012 01:01 pm at 1:01 pm |
  15. BostonLegal02110

    If Mitt thought women were so critical in his administration, why did he relegate Kerry Healy to what amounted to a figurehead role? If I remember correctly, the very few women in his administration were sidelined by him and had to make do with being, well, empty suits. Very disappointed with him then and based on his comments at the debate, he has not redeemed himself, yet.

    October 17, 2012 01:01 pm at 1:01 pm |
  16. Blue

    Mitt is an angry white man. He showed such disrespect for the office to the president. He had to get a notebook binder of women in order to find what he called qualified women. He would destroy the country if he is elected. His main gold is to weaken the middle class.

    October 17, 2012 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  17. Jas

    Really! "Binder full of women". Does his wife know he has this binder? LOL!

    October 17, 2012 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  18. Joe M.

    All of the real problems in this country, and the bloggers' takeaway from the debate is "binders full of women". We are doomed as a society.

    October 17, 2012 01:04 pm at 1:04 pm |
  19. rh

    Binders Full of Women...this is the best people can chomp on? I can't wait until the morning of November 7, when all the stupidity has passed. Latch onto something of substance, will you?

    October 17, 2012 01:04 pm at 1:04 pm |
  20. jimmyjones

    Romney having a binder full of women is as genuine as Ryan scrubbing pots at a homeless shelter. It was never anything more than a political stunt.

    Anyone who believes Romney cared about how many women he hired needs to (fact) check themselves.

    October 17, 2012 01:04 pm at 1:04 pm |
  21. Jas

    Romney doesn't care about intelligent hard working women.
    He never answered the question……he never will !!!!!
    He dosent care.

    October 17, 2012 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  22. America wake up

    And obummers religion supports women?! I guess I forgot that stoning, multiple wives, and beatings is an acceptable way to show one's wife that they are loved. Wake up people....and for those who are making such uneducated comments, please stop breeding.

    October 17, 2012 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
  23. Debbie

    I agree with Yogi's comment above. Romney lies with such ease. It is scary for someone who has winning the Presidency on his bucket list, and yes, IT IS ASTOUNDING that so many Americans either believe him or are so opposed to PBO, that any good sense they had quickly evaporated in November 2008.

    October 17, 2012 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
  24. yogi

    The Republicans who are posting here and whining that Democrats are talking about this binders comment...It is not only this comment of Romney that is troubling, he has one comment every week that gets attention, and all point in one direction: He is not fit to be president, period!
    If people would see Romney's detailed tax plan and his tax returns, the elections would be done: Obama/Biden 2012

    October 17, 2012 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |
  25. Saboth

    Mitt Romney has no idea of the problems facing minorities, women, the poor or middle class. His ONLY concern is getting those tax breaks and deregulation for his rich buddies. He assumes this will finally motivate them to get off the mountains of cash reserves they are sitting on and start dribbling down some crumbs to the rest of us. As a "businessman", his only business was making as much $ in as short a period as possible, legal or not (we are unsure, as he won't release his tax returns). Remember the Wall Street guys doing the shifty/illegal practices that about destroyed our country, no matter who they stepped on? Well one of them is running for president. Heck if I'll hand the keys to the country to one of them.

    October 17, 2012 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |
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