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. Frank G in DF

    So if I understood Governor Romney last night his primary advocacy for women was to facilitate "flex" hours for his female Chief of Staff in Mass. so she could get home to prepare a meal for her family.
    Women of America aren't you relieved?; and all along you thought he did not care about you .

    October 17, 2012 01:28 pm at 1:28 pm |
  2. Barbie

    How many times does Mitt have to put his foot in his "binder" oh, sorry, I meant to say his mouth before everyone realizes just how much of an idiot this man really is....and we want him to run our country!

    October 17, 2012 01:31 pm at 1:31 pm |
  3. Benjamin Guptill

    I thought President Obama's stance on women was condescending and chauvinist. He acted like the only thing women were good for was their reproductive organs... like abortion and contraception were the only two issues that mattered to women. I'm sorry, but women are not one-issue voters. The same things that matter to the guys – the economy, foreign policy, taxes, jobs – also matter to women. Conversely, Governor Romney seemed to get it. His answer in response to the question of how to help women sounded just like his answer on how to help men. I don't know how we can get past gender and racial differences if one side is always painting us as different.

    October 17, 2012 01:31 pm at 1:31 pm |
  4. Nelson

    This campaign is so silly that anything is made out of the use of the worders "binders". I am not a Romney voter but can we concentrate on more important issues?

    October 17, 2012 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  5. ptw

    Jokes aside, here are the weird things about Romney's answer:

    1. it wasn't true. He didn't see a lack of women candidates and tell his staff to go find qualified ones. BEFORE the election women got together and put together that binder of qualified women and presented it to the winner...who happened to be Mitt Romney

    2. What Romney did was a form of affirmative action, and don't conservatives normally loathe affirmative action? But apparently not if they think it makes their guy look good.

    October 17, 2012 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  6. Meh

    Have no idea what the big deal is. So he got binders full of applications from potentially female candidates. Should they have brought the applications in cardboard boxes? Would the juvenile liberal snark machine think that's funny too? At least he hasn't ruined our country like Obama is doing.

    October 17, 2012 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |

    What everyone needs to think about is that Romney had to have his staff gather a list. It means that Romney in years running Bain, as a Bishop, and running the Olympics never encountered (or worked with) what he deemed were qualified women. And it must mean his boys-club (probably all white too) running his campaign didn't know any qualified women.

    If Romney and his team cared and/or believed in equality, they would have had women around them and been able to rattle off a list of qualified women wihout having to get women's groups to put binders together for them. How pathetic.

    October 17, 2012 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
  8. clarke

    "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." NOTE IIF you're going to have women in the workforce that sometimes you need to be More flexible. What about single dads? No need to be flexible for Men? Why didn't he say When you have a single parent in the workforce, Not, "IF your going to have women.

    October 17, 2012 01:40 pm at 1:40 pm |
  9. Thomas

    Romney – 2
    Obama – 0


    Romney , two different answers to the same question !

    October 17, 2012 01:41 pm at 1:41 pm |
  10. Kim

    Dean is delusional. Like it or not, Biden beat Ryan, Obama won round 2. I think Obama threw the first one as strategy.

    October 17, 2012 01:42 pm at 1:42 pm |
  11. rj

    Not a fan of mit or the republicans, but this statement is not an issue.

    October 17, 2012 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
  12. Claudia, Houston, Tx

    The "binder full of women" was bad but when Mitt Romney talked about women's work hours need to be adjusted so "they can hurry home to cook", that was a very sexist statement to say about women in this 21st Century.

    October 17, 2012 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  13. jim

    Sounds like affirmative action to me.

    October 17, 2012 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |
  14. Jerry

    Just when I thought we couldn't get more petty with the points the media focuses on this happens. Saying something as innocuous as 'binders full of women' and then getting BBQ'd by the lib media for that is pathetic. No wonder we can't move forward as a nation.

    October 17, 2012 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  15. Jeannetta Vivere

    you forgot "No one puts baby in a binder"


    October 17, 2012 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  16. Name

    What about the comment he made about if employers want women in the workplace, then they need to be more flexible! For what? I work full time, go to school full time, have 2 kids 1 of which is autistic. Has nothing to do with my employer being flexible, has to do with me being a hard worker!

    October 17, 2012 01:51 pm at 1:51 pm |
  17. Jules

    At age 52, having run a business, having run he Olympics and having run for governor, Romney did not know any women he could put in his cabinet. Hard to believe, isn't it? So, anyway, he did what any good leader would do – he went to women's groups and got binders of women. I hope everyone realizes that Romney never did answer the equal pay for equal work question, but he does believe women should have flexible schedules so they can get home to cook. Doesn't that just abou say it all? Good thing my husband of 46 years can cook for himself or he would have been dead a long time ago while I was travelling for my job.

    October 17, 2012 01:52 pm at 1:52 pm |
  18. jg

    Anyone who really believes there is a daylight's worth of distance between Mitt Romney and George W. Bush is not paying attention to the statements the man himself has made over the previous year. First of all, he talked in the debate as if Bush has been gone forever, IT HAS ONLY BEEN 4 Years. If a person would check, on economic issues there is no difference between the two. On social issues Romney is even more extreme. President Obama deserves 4 more years, and certainly does not to be replaced by the likes of Romney, a person is is similar to Bush, the one Obama has been trying to clean up after all this time.

    October 17, 2012 01:52 pm at 1:52 pm |
  19. TheObserver


    Isn't it funny that the "heartland" of the U.S., and the southern states, where most of the bigotry, religious fanaticism and backward thinking exists, are the states that purport to be the real patriots. Literally, the south, the only region of the U.S. to actually commit treason against the union, they are the patriots? Anyone else find this ironic?

    The values in the "heartland" and the south are so far from Christian values, and so far from the values of our founding fathers, it's astounding. The "heartland"/Bible Belt/southern idea of a free and democratic society is as pale as the skin on Romney's face.

    October 17, 2012 01:53 pm at 1:53 pm |
  20. M.E.

    Huh, I somehow manage a 9-5 then go home and make dinner on MY OWN TIME. No flexibility really needed.Also, isn't unfair that dad's don't get any flexibility? What if dad wants to be a supportive parent at Braeydahn's school track and field day or whatever? Is that women-only territory or can dad get some of that flexibility too?

    October 17, 2012 01:55 pm at 1:55 pm |
  21. jeansees

    Romney is a FRAUD.... His Binder remarks shows he does not feel Women belong in Work place and are not Qualified to get same pay as men. The one he hired had child issues and meals time... He is a pompous PIG!!!!

    October 17, 2012 01:56 pm at 1:56 pm |
  22. AngelM

    What about the other comment ha made about if employers want women in the work force they have to be more flexible! For what? I work full time, go to school full time and have 2 kids, 1 of which is autistic. My husband and I are also working to assist with another handicapped child. It has nothing to do with my employer being flexible, it has to do eith me being a hard worker-with no state or federal assistance I might add!

    October 17, 2012 01:57 pm at 1:57 pm |
  23. barbarianofgor

    "Binder full of women" – hahaha!

    Know what that mean?
    That phrase for house of ...ill repute...

    They often have binders full of pictures of women work there. Rates. Hours. What they will or won't do...

    October 17, 2012 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  24. MormonsForRomney

    In his religion it's called lying for the Lord.. he's been doing it for as long as he's been running for office and probably alot longer... Why hasn't anyone asked him if he's so religous what role does his Mormon religion play in his life?? a religion the Catholic Church has called a Cult...

    October 17, 2012 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  25. Allen

    I'm a little confused. Romney wanted to hire more women, talked to women's groups and brought him "binders"...yet he is the bad guy here?

    October 17, 2012 02:00 pm at 2:00 pm |
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