October 16th, 2012
10:55 PM ET
1 year 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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– 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. Jules

    I read these posts from what sounds like right wingers and they are all saying is this all you have to talk about, what about the real issues, etc. Equal pay for equal work is a real issue. Romney just didn't answer the question because he didn't want to. He opposes equal pay for equal work because he did not support the Lily Ledbetter Act so he goes off on some tangent to explain how good he is for women and comes up with the fact that women need a flexible boss so they can get home on time to cook dinner. If you don't think earning equality that affects half the population and an overwhelming majority of families, single women, single moms and families where both mom and dad need to work, then you don't know what a real issue looks like.

    October 17, 2012 02:00 pm at 2:00 pm |
  2. The Truth

    Female employees in the Obama White House make considerably less than their male colleagues, records show.

    According to the 2011 annual report on White House staff, female employees earned a median annual salary of $60,000, which was about 18 percent less than the median salary for male employees ($71,000).

    October 17, 2012 02:00 pm at 2:00 pm |
  3. Jason

    Sound's like a poorly phrased statement that really doesn't deserve this much attention. Oh well, what do you expect out of this election where the only thing both sides know how to do is sling mud at each other.

    October 17, 2012 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  4. pk

    Unlike his comment behind closed doors about the "47%", Romney's comment about "binders full of women" was public and women should thank Romney for his honest "view" of women. Now voters know that Mitt Romney looks down on the 47% of voters and women (51%). That leaves him with the top 2%! Now I believe the President when he says that Romney care about the top 2%!

    October 17, 2012 02:06 pm at 2:06 pm |
  5. ideoncracy

    FYI, I was an employee of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. I retired during the Romney administration. After I retired from my middle managment position, they hired a man, to do the same work at a higher salary.

    October 17, 2012 02:06 pm at 2:06 pm |
  6. norma jean

    "America Wake Up"!!!!..... ANYONE that comtinues to infer that our president is anything but American is only showing their own disgusting arrogance. and ignorance!!!....It is in our Constitution that the president HAS to be an American citizen... I'm sure that all of our federal offices were all asleep when Obama became president.......{{..america ...you really DO need to wake up!!!!!!]

    October 17, 2012 02:07 pm at 2:07 pm |
  7. Name Nancy

    Binders full of women....shows what little respect Romney has for women...

    October 17, 2012 02:07 pm at 2:07 pm |
  8. Aaron

    Can we get over the "binders full of women"? Grow up CNN everyone knew what he meant.

    October 17, 2012 02:07 pm at 2:07 pm |
  9. One Binder to Rule Them All!!!

    I about lost it when he said it. It has made for a good laugh today. I'll even laugh about it when I am casting my vote for the President.

    October 17, 2012 02:07 pm at 2:07 pm |
  10. David

    Asking for applicants based on their gender only–isn't that called affirmative action?

    Why is the press not asking about this?

    October 17, 2012 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |
  11. Jen

    The worst part of that comment was what came after... Romney continued by giving the example that "the women might need to leave at 5:00 rather than 7 or 8 pm so they could go home and fix dinner for their kids. Still a proponent of barefoot in the kitchen, Romney? How about leaving at five because an eight or nine or ten hour day is enough. People need to live life outside an office. Expecting twelve or thirteen hours on a regular basis is unreasonable and not conducive to a healthy or happy life. And what about all those dads and single fathers out there. Don't they need to go home too? How about addressing the real inequalities when it comes to pay and benefits? Big Whoop on your "flexibility.

    October 17, 2012 02:09 pm at 2:09 pm |
  12. Anonymous

    Another FALSE claim by Romney....as stupid as it was. David Bernstein of The Phoenix in Boston is questioning Romney's recollection of events. According to Bernstein, the mythical binder did indeed exist, but it was given to Romney by outside activists and not at his request. You can't make this stuff up! Oh, wait....Romney tries to!

    October 17, 2012 02:09 pm at 2:09 pm |
  13. Linda

    At least President Obama addressed the question, which referred to equal pay for equal work. He did mention other things that are specific to women's needs, birth control, which is an important issue for many women. Yes, women are about much more than that, we have brains! Romney had people working for him who honestly could not find any qualified women, what a crock!!!

    October 17, 2012 02:12 pm at 2:12 pm |
  14. Curt Madden

    I will quote Vice President Joe Biden on this matter: "Thats a bunch of mallarchy"

    October 17, 2012 02:13 pm at 2:13 pm |
  15. alden ventus

    I am increasingly concerned with my fellow Americans' support for Mitt Romney. This mangoes back on everything he says when it's convenient for him. Am I saying that President Obama has cured us of all of our problems? Of course not, but to think that one president in one term could eliminate the problems created by the Bush administration, you would have to be delusional and a little out of touch. President Obama has a plan for the future; Mitt Romney talks of this "Five Points Plan" but never chooses to elaborate, even when pressed. Plain and simple; a vote for Romney is a vote for a step back in the wrong direction. If you think he cares at all about the welfare of the middle class, you are either one of the 1%, or you live your life daydreaming.

    October 17, 2012 02:13 pm at 2:13 pm |
  16. Shac Cooper

    [As governor] I had the chance to pull together a cabinet and all the applicants seemed to be men. 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." And I said, "Well, gosh, can't we — can't we find some — some women [minorities] that are also qualified [leaders]?" And — and so we — we took a CONCERTED EFFORT TO GO OUT AND FIND women [minorities] who had backgrounds that could be qualified to become members of our cabinet. 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.
    Yours truly,
    Romney

    Mitt believed that there had been biases that kept women from equal having equal opportunities to obtain leadership positions on his team, therefore he took it upon himself to level the playing field. What Mitt did is called affirmative action, but some call this reverse discrimination. What do you think?

    October 17, 2012 02:14 pm at 2:14 pm |
  17. Anton Dubinski

    I had binders full of women under my bed as a teenager but my mom found them and threw them out.

    October 17, 2012 02:15 pm at 2:15 pm |
  18. M.P.

    Please, please, please, do not vote for Romney. He is not a job creator, he is a job destroyer. He has no clue how to run this Country. He is so incompetent, arrogant, rude, lier, dishonest and so much more. He always tells people what they want to hear and change his mind so quickly. If it was for him we would be in a DEPRESSION not in a recession. He was ready to shut down the cars industries in this Country and so many, many more poeple would be out of job right now. Romney/Ryan are working to privatize Social Security and alter Medicare giving you a voucher instead. What does this tell you? If you are 54 and younger, and all your children will have no Social Security or Medicare by the time you and your children retire. Romney/Ryan, BAD, BAD CHOICE. STAY AWAY FROM THEM.

    October 17, 2012 02:16 pm at 2:16 pm |
  19. nae

    Wow! That is a relief. If I vote for Mitt I will get home in time to make dinner! Then I have no worries....stupid man!

    October 17, 2012 02:16 pm at 2:16 pm |
  20. Ambrose Smith

    The question was about EQUAL PAY.....not about finding women in binders to fill positions. What a chump.

    October 17, 2012 02:17 pm at 2:17 pm |
  21. Blue

    If all some of you have is throwing around rhetoric about binders, that shows how off the mark you are on REAL ISSUES. Jobs, unemployment, grads, part time only, minimum wage, disenfranchised ... it's a slaughterhouse for those seeking work. Middle class and poor CRUSHED, doubled gas prices, energy/utility bills up 11-23% across the country, tuition up, classes down (means 4 year degrees are now 5 years of tuition and unemployed), bus faires and public transportation fees up ... middle class and poor are being absolutely pillaged and rap ed over the last four years... just rap ed.

    Wake up folks, don't be tools.

    October 17, 2012 02:17 pm at 2:17 pm |
  22. al

    What I got from Romney's answer was that he didn't have any plans or thoughts or ideas on income inequality and believed the best solution to the problem is flex time. I may not the the sharpest tool in the shed but does he somehow think flex time is going to equalize pay?

    October 17, 2012 02:18 pm at 2:18 pm |
  23. nate

    This is a stupid story how else is he suppose to say it. Binders full of women ? There was binders full of highly qaulified women in those binders. I love how the left loves to create stupid uncalled for controversy over nothing. The governer made a good point and the left looks very ridiculous doing this. I voted for obama the first time but this is why I wont the second time. Im 31 and slot of my close associates feel the same.

    October 17, 2012 02:20 pm at 2:20 pm |
  24. Yonni

    If Mitt is elected I will ask my wife to come early from work and cook for me.

    October 17, 2012 02:20 pm at 2:20 pm |
  25. rchirico221b

    I think he meant "blinders" not binders.

    October 17, 2012 02:21 pm at 2:21 pm |
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