(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.
The tweets and posts quickly stacked up.
I'd love to see the meeting minutes from that roundtable. #bindersfullofwomen— David Weller (@dcweller) October 17, 2012
I'd love to see the meeting minutes from that roundtable. #bindersfullofwomen
Kate Segal, whose Twitter bio says she is the Democratic floor leader in the Michigan House of Representatives, took a political angle.
To solve the problem of pay inequality we don't need more 'binders full of women,' we need more ballots full of women. #BallotsNotBinders— Kate Segal (@KateSegal) October 17, 2012
To solve the problem of pay inequality we don't need more 'binders full of women,' we need more ballots full of women. #BallotsNotBinders
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."
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As the weeks roll on, I find it distrubing just how dumb alot of Americans are. We have got to do better, people. Are some of you that gullable and blind?
"A binders full of women", I almost bursted out to laugh last night. He said whatever he could to win the race, lies or illogic is not the matter. Women worked in his cabinet under his administration in MA was 31% the average is 32%, the top management among women was only 27%, according to NYT's fact checks.
The real story here is that his cabinet was 50% women, all cabinet jobs, plus the Lte.Governor a woman. You people are using a joke to go deep deep deep into denial. He not only gave these senior level positions to women, he has gone out of his way to promote and encourage their personal goals. So all you deniers , jump back into your little joke book and slam it shut. The slam might make you downright giddy with excitement.
I am a solid Obama supporter, but I consider the fuss over this phrase to be worth a moment of humor, at most. Romney deserves credit for seeking femake "applicants" from sources likely to know good choices and for appointing some, including apparently his MA Governor's Office Chief of Staff.
Obama, too, has a strong record of appointing women (Cabinet, WH advisors, SCOTUS nominees), and his policy proposals and actions are more favorable to women than Romney's would likely be.
There is no need to downplay what Romney did, however.
Binders is the only thing the left can find ti scream about. What a shame.
To women this is very offensive. We do know that he meant he had lots of information on qualified women, but the wording was messed up. Remind anyone of GW Bush? ;-)
The statement was silly, that was the reason drew so many silly "binders" posts.
I am glad that everyone got something to talk about today; something "miss-spoken" is clearly more exciting to discuss that all the other issues of the election. So continue to yap about "binder-gate" and skip over Libya, economy, etc.
Wow. The left is getting really desperate now.
First, Romney doesn't realize it that is affirmative action at work. Second, millions of women just discovered that their halloween costume this year can be made from two pieces of plyboard with " I belong to Mitt' scratched on it.
Amazing how little it takes to turn things on their head!
Way to go Romney – you should learn to engage brain before engaging mouth. Too Funny!
Face it Mitt – WE JUST DON'T LIKE YOU. h a ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha
And you can't force us to like you (bully).
The Boston Globe is reporting on line that it was a bi-partisan women's group that sent the binders to both candidates who were running for Governor. Romney started out seeking women; however by the end of his term when he was no longer interested there were less women in good Government positions than before he became Governor. Romney cannot be trusted.
After his performance last night, any woman who votes for Mitt Romney is a traitor to other women.
Give me a break. Are people that immature and bitter?
The fact is Romney said no qualified females were available locally to fill his cabinet. Most politicians would stop there. But Romney took the initiative to ask for females outside his area that were qualified and he said there were binders full of candidates for the job and they picked from that.
The point was that Obama is not all about women because there are more women out of jobs under his administration and his policy’s have changed to politicize points against Romney and get more votes. Romney has done for women by providing a place for them to succeed. It is not about providing free stuff for the poor. It is about providing a place for the poor to succeed and prosper rather that stay in poverty. Obama does not see the poor getting out of their situation…he just keeps making laws that keep them dependant like a child is to a parent.
CNN, what a prejudice bias picture you have here! You are not journalists you are propaganda mongers spreading one sided bigotry. You should be ashamed of yourself.
Lt Govoner Kerry Healey who found romney that binder full of woman has spoken out against the negagive comments and says Romney did it because he is commited to women and he walks the walk, supports women and Romney goes way beyond what others in office have done. Lilly Ledbetter that Obama keeps refering to only makes it possible for women to sue if they find they are making less. But no one at work is actually supposed to talk about what they make; it is often the agreement one makes when staring a job. Additionally if Obama was so concerned for women and their pay then why are women in the Whitehouse making less than the men in the same position?
For those of you who say Obama's "only focus is on women's reproductive organs" I have two messages: 1) the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act and 2) Obama didn't have to look in a binder to find capable women for Secretary of State, Supreme Court Justice, and many many other offices. Romney thinks too much like my Dad – women need to get home from work, not to be with their families but to cook dinner.
This why I wont vote for obama for a second time. Romney is acting like a presidential canidate . Obama and his team are acting like a bully. Romney made a great point and they twist it. They look stupid doing it. Stick to the facts and you look professional .
Come on people, you can't tell me you don't know what he meant by "binders of women", he was referring to binders of woman's RESUME'S. He asked for qualified women, so you look at the RESUMES for qualifications.
This is it? Binders? Of all the important things we need to address you need to talk about a filing system? It must be worse then I thought for Obama.
No Frank G in DF, he was being flexible by giving her what she had asked for. You make it sound as if Mitt said she was supposed to bin the kitchen, barefoot and pregnant.
obama the dictator, listen carefully and learn:
GOVERNMENTS DO NOT CREATE JOBS, GOT IT? it is the private sector, that you want to continue destroying that would create employments again, but this will not happen under obama's time, as he will not be reelected. Romney will bring us back the American dream!ROMNEY! ROMNEY! ROMNEY!
Romney wishes he had binders full of women.
I was one of those women who was part of the coalition of professional women that took it upon ourselves to develop the'binder', making it available to the winning candidate in Massachusetts. Mitt Romney did not request that such a 'binder' be complied. Rather, it was made available to him, just as it would have been, had Shannon O'Brien won the state election in 2002.
RoMoney might have won but he keeps...............talking.
@Frank G in DF: No Frank, it's evident that you didn't understand Gov. Romney last night, although you would like to think you did. Try again....