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. Chat Pata

    "Binder full of women" = Gaffe. Comments about 43% being moochers, not a gaffe.

    October 17, 2012 01:11 pm at 1:11 pm |
  2. Farrah

    As a woman I felt that this was an awkward portion of the debate. Rather than talking about the glass ceiling Romney seemed to insinuate that women have family obligations that limit employers from hiring them for decent jobs. I guess we won't have to worry a pretty little heads over it since he will create enough jobs that companies will be forced to hire women when all the male applicants are exhausted.

    October 17, 2012 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
  3. Lamps

    You guys even have a picture of romney like that. CNN is in the tank for Obama. Bias.

    October 17, 2012 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
  4. Phaedrus

    Meh! It wasn't simply the comment Romney made about 'binders of women"... it was his whole diatribe on the subject. His response, if you look at it closely, was misogynistic... focused on the 'little lady' still being the primary caregiver and needing 'flex time' to accommodate that traditional function. What about the 'little women's' spouse?

    What Republicans fail to grasp is that progressive, intelligent families have come to realize, and accept, that raising a family is a shared responsibility. Not only should there be equal pay (which Romney failed to support) but equal consideration in the workplace in that (OMG) men will need latitude when it comes to family resposibilities also.

    As much as Republicans would like to return to the perceived serenity of the 1950's where men were men and women were 'homemakers' it just ain't gonna happen. Romney and his ilk need to come out of their bubble of sexism and see the real world.

    Although Obama scratched the surface of this in the debate ('It's a family issue") think he missed an opportunity to slam this misogyny the Republicans hold so dear.

    October 17, 2012 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  5. momoftaj

    So Romney didn't even realize that there was an issue of equality until he became governor? Really? And then how does he go out and fix that issue of his? Wouldn't we call those binders full of women AFFIRMATIVE ACTION! OOPS! Romney FAIL as we know that the Republican party wants to end Affirmative Action. But, according to Romney it worked out well to get his office staffed with qualified women. See folks, affirmative action doesn't give unqualified people whether minorities or women jobs they can't do. But, unfortunately, Romney still got his card pulled on this debate.

    October 17, 2012 01:14 pm at 1:14 pm |
  6. Thomas

    The most disturbing thing is that Governor Romney and his staff, collectively, did not know of any qualified women. It certainly paints a picture of a man of power and influence that is not in touch with the rest of the world. How can a man be elected governor without having been exposed to "qualified" women? I would suggest that one can not, but rather from bias fail to see the qualifications of women.

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

    I was more insulted by his "We need to get women home from work in time to cook dinner." Cook your own dinner, Mittins. You're a grown man.

    October 17, 2012 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  8. fiftyfive55

    According to women,they shouldnt have to "put in the time" like men do to achieve their goals,instead,they want to jump to the front of the line like an illega alien.

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

    king liar romney, racists romney, king flip flopper romney, is there any other human being can lie like this hypocrite?

    October 17, 2012 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
  10. cgs

    In context, Romney was referring to binders full of women's resumes. Duh! He was going out of his way to hire women when he was governor.

    Meanwhile:

    The Obama campaign posted an e-card featuring a flapper-style lady with the words, "Vote like your lady parts depend on it."
    "@TheIndyExpress: Dear @BarackObama – I vote with my mind & not with my #ladyparts. This former Obama voter is voting for @MittRomney in 2012."
    "@ElizabethYate11: Obama is THE war on women! Mr. "eye candy" President wants women to vote with our #ladyparts?! Disrespectful and demeaning pig!"

    October 17, 2012 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
  11. momoftaj

    Mitt only found out that women had issues with fairness after he was governor, that is sad. Also, did he realize that by asking for those binders full of women in order to ensure that women were represented in his office he practiced what we all know to be AFFIRMATIVE ACTION! So, I guess affirmative action isn't bad, when he does it.

    October 17, 2012 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
  12. ohio

    Oh do i hope my state goes for Obama. Seriously Romney. The answer on this pay equality question
    was horrible! Actually he did not even address pay. He was more concerned whether or not women
    got home in time to make dinner for their families so give them flex-time?????? and then there is
    the afirmative action segment of his answer he forgot to include. He seemed uncomfortable answering
    this question. Even rattled. If this country is blind enough to elect him it will be a sad day for women
    and minorities. I will feel bad for my daughter. I hope we can't bring ourselves as a nation to do it
    but there are a lot of people stuck in the 50s. We'll know in a few weeks what kind of people we will
    tell the world we are.

    October 17, 2012 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |
  13. LL34983

    If what Romney said is true it's admirable that he did the right thing to fight sex discrimination. I don't see why people are pouncing on the "binders full of women" comment. It's obvious that he meant women's resumes. The focus on word choice is distracting us from the real issue here. Enough.

    October 17, 2012 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  14. Dan

    fo someone who doesnt care about this debate and going on strictly what he said, i can't believe this is even making news. stupid people

    October 17, 2012 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  15. skarphace

    Once again, Romney did not answer the question. The question was not "how would you ensure more women have jobs?". The question was "how would you ensure women get equal pay for equal work?"

    His hedge on the question should speak volumes: he wouldn't. He would abolish the Ledbetter act. This is what he did not want to say.

    October 17, 2012 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  16. Joe the plumber

    So if taken out of context, a binder full of women, and I know how to make money; can make Mitt a Pimp. I knew being articulate is not Romney's strong suit.

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

    BTW, those cabinet appointments are notorious for being made for the purposes of political patronage. The men the staff had selected were probably chosen for that reason. "Qualified" to them probably meant "did enough to help Romney get elected."

    October 17, 2012 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  18. Anonymous

    Wow. CNN people are very illiterate, not at all on point and probably have never cared to exert their right to gather information on their own. Why are not Americans forced to take a Civics class...oh wait, they probably flunked....in order to vote. if 47%, binders of women, and spending the night with Beyonce, the days with the VIew, and all of those silly shows, instead of actually turning to their policies, actions, inaction, and the countless 1.5B of vacations he and his homely wife with fake eyelashes that need to be secured to her face...if you would focus on the actual words coming from their mouths, you would find Mitt has been consistant, Barry has been absent or partying or golfing....if you actually find intellectual formats , then you might 'see' the truth. Poor America. You get what you deserve. I personally don't want to settle for the last four years of wasting our time and money so he can romp around with his ill behaved troupe. Geez people. Wise up!

    October 17, 2012 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  19. e-mail

    The binders heading was Real Cheap Women,

    October 17, 2012 01:23 pm at 1:23 pm |
  20. Last night's matchup: A failure vs. a Liar

    Never in my life have I been as embarassed about the state of electoral politics in the US as I was last night. And that goes to both "candidates".

    October 17, 2012 01:25 pm at 1:25 pm |
  21. Patrick

    Now it is clear that we have a choice between a steady Eddie and a slick businessman. Obama is making slow, steady progress on the economy and Romney is making promises he cannot keep based on independent analysis.

    October 17, 2012 01:26 pm at 1:26 pm |
  22. Anonymous

    people, people, peope romney has pplace in the guiness book of records. his record is king of liars, yes romney is king liar.

    October 17, 2012 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  23. Mark

    I had no idea Mitt could be so funny....unintentionally. His speaking sometimes reminds me of Bush. I hope he's not a dumb.

    October 17, 2012 01:28 pm at 1:28 pm |
  24. Rick in MI

    It seems to me this "binders full of women" comment is a total non-issue. Think back 10-20 years ago, before the internet and before resume PDFs. It was very common to have binders full of resumes. If certain womens rights roups were asked by Romney to suggest qualified women candidates, NATURALLY there weoul have been ninders full of women!

    What makes this most insincere is that known sexist pigs like Bill Clinton, JFK, and others likely DID keep and use "binders full of women" on an entirely different level. BUT, Romney's motives are called into question because he attempted to do something noble while Clinton and the Kennedy's KNOWN phillandering sexist ways were ignored. TOO FUNNY! (And sad...) Perhaps the people who work for Obama should have spent more time trying to fix our economic mess and less time trying to destroy Mitt Romney?

    October 17, 2012 01:28 pm at 1:28 pm |
  25. Rebecca

    "because I recognized that IF you're going to have women in the workforce "

    ....IF???????

    This one little word bothers me far more than the binders full of women. The binders comment was just a dumb thing to say; the "if" and subsequent comment about a female employee having children helping him to understand that women need more flexibility is much more troubling on a much deeper level. It implies that he thinks a woman's place is in the home raising children. If some women choose to do that, that's fine but if some men choose to do that, that should be fine as well. Both men and women need flexibility to help them care for their families.

    He just doesn't get it.

    October 17, 2012 01:28 pm at 1:28 pm |
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