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

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. Sniffit

    Binders full of women. Mittens full of crap. Stories at 11.

    October 17, 2012 02:37 pm at 2:37 pm |
  2. PJ

    Interesting that some who have posted here think it's not an issue. Is for me and interestingly, I'm a woman. Romney didn't provide a good answer – it was laughable really. If he wants our votes, he might want to learn something about us. While we love our kids, there's more to work than getting home earlier. What about parents in general wanting to get home to enjoy spending time with their kids? What about equal pay for equal work? How could his search team not find any women with the credentials they were looking for – maybe they just didn't understand there might be some out there and that it might be important?

    October 17, 2012 02:37 pm at 2:37 pm |
  3. wcc

    Anyone who writes that Romney is an idiot is nothing but a partisan or a fool. Whether you like Romney or not, one thing he is not is a fool. And as for this silly and petty column, what a waste of time, ink, and words. Only a biased petty news channel or website would bother to write such a column. With so many serious issues in this election this is the best you can come up with? Just goes to show how worthless much of the media has become. You sure can't cover the scandal surrounding Obama's obvious cover up of the attack in Libya but you can take Romney's comment totally out of context in an attempt to make him look foolish? Just more worthless noise from Obama's cheerleading section.

    October 17, 2012 02:39 pm at 2:39 pm |
  4. Name Penguin

    The right wing wants to keep women bound and gagged. Whatever happened to the Republican Party that used to have progressive ideas?

    October 17, 2012 02:40 pm at 2:40 pm |
  5. Let'sfocus

    Our economy is in the toilet, terrorism is on the rise, and our President is talking about Big Bird and this article focus on ‘binders’ of women. Focus people... Do you want four more years of failed and misguided policy, huge deficits, higher taxes, and less security? Then keep focusing on this sort of silliness.

    October 17, 2012 02:40 pm at 2:40 pm |
  6. CryBabies

    I can't believe the " touchy feely" idiot liberals on this site. "You People" are incredibly challenged in real life common sense. No time for your whining and crocodile tears.

    October 17, 2012 02:42 pm at 2:42 pm |
  7. Ron

    "Cedar Rapids "ron – Deplorable. Absolutely deplorable" "sorry ron that you seem to have an issue with people pointing out the demeaning comments romney makes. Tell you what, tell him not to make them and then we wont have to comment about them."

    how is saying Romney received binders full of information regarding the qualifications of women intertested in open cabinet positions demeaning? please explian that one. typical liberal response. lets totally ignore the important issues i listed above and focus on romney saying he recieved information on women who qualify for open positions that happened to be aggregated into binders. WOW! so demeaning! want to her something really demeaning? Obama's white house has been desicrbed by Anita Dunn as the perfect example of a workplace that would be sued for how they treat women. or how women in Obama's white house saying they feel like "peices of meat." or how about the FACT that women in obama's whitehouse make 18% less then thier male counterparts. How's that for demeaning. betcha CNN hasnt run a story on that one.

    October 17, 2012 02:42 pm at 2:42 pm |
  8. Matt

    I had an awesome Trapper Keeper circa 1988!

    October 17, 2012 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  9. Joe from CT, not Lieberman

    Somehow the term "Binders full of women" coming out of a Mormon's mouth brings up a different connotation. And here I thought the mainstream LDS community renounced multiple wives! Or does Willard believe he is in the same category as Brigham Young?

    October 17, 2012 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  10. Loathstheright

    And Mitt even lied about the "Binder full of women"...that "Binder" was given to both candidates by a women's organization, Mitt NEVER ASKED FOR IT....Mitt hates women...."Give them time to go home can cook dinner"....REALLY, COOK DINNER?

    October 17, 2012 02:44 pm at 2:44 pm |
  11. Jerry

    President Obama "Some of those jobs will never come back" –Great

    October 17, 2012 02:44 pm at 2:44 pm |
  12. g

    romney wants to create good paying jobs like he did in china–thats scary

    October 17, 2012 02:45 pm at 2:45 pm |
  13. Jerry

    Who said some of those jobs will never come back? Prez "O"

    October 17, 2012 02:45 pm at 2:45 pm |
  14. CryBabies

    @ Changouno...Thankyou for being a voice of reason! I'm looking forward to the liberals to go down looking....Reverse K!

    October 17, 2012 02:45 pm at 2:45 pm |
  15. Benjamin Rodgers

    Much of the confusion emanating from DC is due to the influence of a large building with an angelic figure called moron-i as it's drawing card. God is NOT the author of confusion! We should all fall upon our knees and ask God to give us a leader after his heart. Wise men pray often and do not speak their minds openly. "Speak softly but carry a big stick" takes on a new sense of urgency especially in the world today. Pray for wisdom in the upcoming elections and let the creator have his way and may he give us the grace of character to accept his choice.

    October 17, 2012 02:45 pm at 2:45 pm |
  16. SOUTHERN HOTTIE

    Hey Romney! Mead called. They want that binder back!

    October 17, 2012 02:46 pm at 2:46 pm |
  17. Mete Krop

    Pleazzzz guys, let vote this man in the white house. He gonna give us a LOT of laugh.

    October 17, 2012 02:46 pm at 2:46 pm |
  18. very telling comment

    I had the same reaction as JRSGTOWN. My first thought when I heard Romney's answer was, if his team brought him a list entirely composed of men, that suggests to me that:

    1) Romney did not typically include women in important positions (including, presumably, the very group that brought him the list), and
    2) he surrounded himself with a team (of men) who had a similar record, and outlook, with regard to women.

    If Romney had generally included women, or if his team was more open in this regard, they would have come back with a list that had at least some women on it (either because they knew Romney would not accept an all-male list or because they could find qualified women on their own). I would be highly surprised if Obama, for example, ever receives a list of all-male candidates. It just sounds like Romney and his team were very "traditional" in this regard, but that Romney realized for political purposes he needed to include a woman.

    And if in fact all the truly qualified candidates were men (hard to believe, but just assume), then Romney was practicing the sort of affirmative action that conservatives hate.

    October 17, 2012 02:46 pm at 2:46 pm |
  19. CryBabies

    @ rosie....No , as a matter of fact it reminds me of "Snickerdoodle Joe".

    October 17, 2012 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  20. SOUTHERN HOTTIE

    @Hammerer
    Binders is the only thing the left can find ti scream about. What a shame.

    October 17, 2012 02:22 pm at 2:22 pm |
    ************************************************************************************************************************************

    Nah. What's a shame is your guy's misogynistic statement. Eat some bran, dude.

    October 17, 2012 02:48 pm at 2:48 pm |
  21. Dave From Philly

    With all Of Gov. Romney's business experience none of the women he worked with at Bain Capital were qualified to work for the Commonwealth of MA? None of the women that worked at any of the companies he bought and sold were qualified? None of the women that worked on his campaign were qualified? He did the right thing by trying to get women involved in his cabinet, but I am concerned that he did not know any qualified women from within his circle.

    October 17, 2012 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
  22. Buckeye

    northerstar

    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.
    ---------------------------------------------–
    Great point. Libya: it was great that Willard got caught in a lie right there on the spot and got fact checked in realtime. It was beautiful wasn't it.
    Now about the economy, housing starts have exploded based on data just out, couple that with unemployment dropping esp with other indicators like 1st time jobless claims and it appears that the long road to recovery is picking up steam. Great job by the Obama camp even in spite of GOP headwinds as evidenced by record filibusters. Good thing we're getting four more years Forward instead of taking our country back to Bush failed policies. Thanks again for pointing out the important issues.

    October 17, 2012 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |
  23. Changouno

    ...More importantly 4 men were killed and even if Obama did say Benghazi was a terrorist attack in the Rose Garden he said the exact opposite for the next 14 days. Obama did this after his spokesman for him started saying it was not preplanned and based on the video and never mentioned terrorism. Then after they finally admitted it was terrorism, it was not spontaneous, it was planned Obama still would not admit to it for days.

    October 17, 2012 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |
  24. g

    so he hired women that were not married and no kids so cooking would not get in the way

    October 17, 2012 02:53 pm at 2:53 pm |
  25. Jay in NC

    It is the Liberals that are misspeaking, Gov. Romney was clearly talking about a binder of women's names. Typical Liberal change the quote then accuse them of misspeaking.

    October 17, 2012 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
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