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

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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. Danthefisherman

    Liberals distort the most innocuous statements. You would think even the most simple minded of simple minded libs would unsterstand what Romney meant.

    October 17, 2012 02:56 pm at 2:56 pm |
  2. Jasons

    Way to keep the election focused on the big, important issues.

    October 17, 2012 02:56 pm at 2:56 pm |
  3. Sniffit

    "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.'

    You are woefully misinformed. Please go read about the FACT that Mittens did not request this information and seek it out as he claimed. It was provided to him by a bipartisan women's advocacy group called the Massachusetts Government Appointments Project. They were started in 2002, prior to Mittens running for governor, and shoved binders in both candidates' faces to make sure that qualified women in Massachusetts were prominent in the analysis of who should be in their adminstrations. Mittens wants everyone to think he initiated this search and took the initiative. HE. DID. NOT. That you bought what he said hook, line and sinker is very disappointing. As for his record, there were less women in executive positions when Mittens left office than there were when he took office. THAT is his record.

    October 17, 2012 02:57 pm at 2:57 pm |
  4. Really?

    Keep you eye on the ball children. I think there are more important issues here. No matter how many times the Obama camp says Mitt hates women, it will not become true!

    BTW, were they supposed to bring him binders full of women and men's name when it was a women that he wanted to fill the spot(s)? I mean seriously, dems are easily distracted by squirrls and balls of yarn. Lol.

    October 17, 2012 03:00 pm at 3:00 pm |
  5. ThinkAgain: Hey, networks, fact-check the debates in real-time and put it in the crawl!

    @Changuono: "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."

    You just believe everything ol' Mittens tells you, eh? Google Boston Phoenix and read what REALLY happened regarding Mittens and women in his cabinet. Once again, Mittens lied (shock!). From the Boston Phoenix article today:

    "What actually happened was that in 2002 – prior to the election, not even knowing yet whether it would be a Republican or Democratic administration – a bipartisan group of women in Massachusetts formed MassGAP to address the problem of few women in senior leadership positions in state government. There were more than 40 organizations involved with the Massachusetts Women's Political Caucus (also bipartisan) as the lead sponsor.

    "They did the research and put together the binder full of women qualified for all the different cabinet positions, agency heads, and authorities and commissions. They presented this binder to Governor Romney when he was elected."

    Obama/Biden 2012 = The only sane choice

    October 17, 2012 03:02 pm at 3:02 pm |
  6. Mrs T.

    Very funny. Romney doesn't have a chance now. It will take him months for him to figure out how to get out of the bind-er he just walked into. I don't think their is a "google listing" for 'Binder Guide'.

    Better luck next time. Oh, third times a charm.

    October 17, 2012 03:03 pm at 3:03 pm |
  7. Sniffit

    ""There is certainly glaring evidence that he hasn't put women in places of extreme power," said Melissa A. Walsh, president of the Massachusetts chapter of the National Organization for Women. "He has chosen to surround himself with male chiefs."

    Most other Cabinet members in the Romney administration report to two male "super Cabinet" members, Chief of Commonwealth Development Douglas I. Foy and Chief of Commerce and Labor Robert Pozen."

    -The Republican, 2.23.03

    October 17, 2012 03:03 pm at 3:03 pm |
  8. Sam

    Mass Media at its best. Three articles about binders, another about "funniest tweets". No serious analysis of the debate. One article "candidate arrested after protest"! That is about Jill Stein – a candidate for the President, who is on almost all the ballots! They do not put her name on the headline, just a "candidate". Also they closed discussion board after 33 comments. What if number of comments exceeds those on Obama/Romney boards! Or what would happen if – God forbids – more people will recognize her name, and start thinking outside the TV box.

    October 17, 2012 03:05 pm at 3:05 pm |
  9. Changouno

    zandhcats
    Your calculations are based on a bias left paper. Today Lt Governor Kerry Healey confirmed he had 50/50 men and women in his cabinet. She is the one that brought Governor Mitt Romney the binder full of qualified women.

    October 17, 2012 03:07 pm at 3:07 pm |
  10. PatSJ

    Allen, so sad that you are confused. Anyone else taking office would have already had a list of the capable women who could fill leadership positions. Romney noted that he waited until he was in office, then had to go to "women's groups" to find out who could fill the spaces. THIS ISN'T THE 1950'S!

    October 17, 2012 03:09 pm at 3:09 pm |
  11. Wake up People!

    Putting the whole binders thing aside. Willard lied. He did not seek out female applicants. Several women's groups got together before he was even elected and put together the binders to present to whomever won the election. Willard NEVER went seeking female personnel, that is just one of the MANY lies he tried to get away with last night. Anyone with half a brain knows, women are almost considered property by mormons. The only thing they are good for is marriage, having babies and catering to their husbands. So who really cares about the binders thing, the point is once again Willard LIED.

    October 17, 2012 03:09 pm at 3:09 pm |
  12. tjkarani

    The thing that everyone seems to be missing is the fact that Romney's staff didn't think any women were qualified. Not one!

    October 17, 2012 03:10 pm at 3:10 pm |
  13. Andy Loerch

    The real question should be, did he pay his binders full of women fairly?

    October 17, 2012 03:10 pm at 3:10 pm |
  14. Changouno

    The empty binder
    ...Romney went out of his way to help women...What Obama has done for the economy and Americans; more unemployed women since Obama took office, is an empty binder.

    October 17, 2012 03:12 pm at 3:12 pm |
  15. M.P.

    People, I repeat: DO NOT VOTE FOR ROMNEY. HE IS A FAT LIAR. He doesn't give a s... about you or anybody else. He just wants to become President of the United States. He just wants a powerful position. You know very well that he doesn't give a damn about women, men or children. If he and Ryan will get elected, we all are going to be screwed!

    October 17, 2012 03:12 pm at 3:12 pm |
  16. Cami100k

    Oh look liberalcrats are focusing all their effort on "small things" again. I'm not surprised. Have fun with Big Bird and all your colorful binders. The rest of us will focus our attention on the important issues that face this Great Nation.

    October 17, 2012 03:13 pm at 3:13 pm |
  17. Piscesgal609

    You mean to tell me when Mittens was running Bain and the olympic committee etc. that he did not know ONE woman executive to hire off the top of his head? Did he watch too much Flintstones!? Then it's a definite he didn't know or associate with any other minorities for that matter! Yeah Mitt, you represent and care about 100% of America just like you care about diversity. See ya.

    October 17, 2012 03:13 pm at 3:13 pm |
  18. Cami100k

    Oh look liberalcrats are focusing all their effort on "small things" again. I'm not surprised. Have fun with Big Bird and all your colorful binders. The rest of us will focus our attention on the important issues that face this Great Nation.

    October 17, 2012 03:14 pm at 3:14 pm |
  19. Frank

    I like the picture of the yellow binder and all the women dancing inside lol.. Hilarious.. Ahhhhh, Romney, If only you could debate without speaking. lol. On top of that, he was already nervous knowing Obama was winning.

    October 17, 2012 03:15 pm at 3:15 pm |
  20. xfiler93

    The DEAR LEADER has run this country into the ground the past 4 years, and he offered nothing new to change it. Another 4 years of this? No Thanks.

    October 17, 2012 03:15 pm at 3:15 pm |
  21. craig

    The ironic part is not only his choice of phrases, but the FACT that the whole story is untrue. It had even been debunked long before, so he's just repeating an old lie...which, of course, still doesn't make it true. Just when you think he's reached bottom he starts digging yet again. Of course, he probably thinks women belong in binders...the "binders" of home, house, cooking, cleaning, and raising children.

    October 17, 2012 03:18 pm at 3:18 pm |
  22. Claired

    With all that was said last night, I am very curious as to why the "Binder full of Women" comment is getting all the press and why Governer Romney's comment in response to assault weapons AK47 – is that "Parents: we need mom's and dad's helping raises kids... "Gosh to tell our kids that before that have babies they ought to think about getting married to someone that's a great idea." and that if there is a two parent house poverty decreases greatly and opportunity increases.. There are many single parent house wholes that the children aren't violent and are extremely successful (President Obama, Michael Phelps,Sonia Sotomayor, Oprah Winfrey,and my mom (my dad died and left her with 6 kid 21-7) to name a few) I myself did not go through a marriage ceramony, I have been with my partner over 16 years and raising our 10 year old with him. Governer Romney's comment is insulting to me, to many of my friends and I am sure to many of the approximately 13.6 million single parents in the United States today, and those parents are responsible for raising 21.2 million children (approximately 26% of children under 21 in the U.S. today) -

    October 17, 2012 03:19 pm at 3:19 pm |
  23. becky

    This is not surprising to people from MA. Mr. Romney did not know any women because he just rode into MA and became the Republican candidate. He did not try to very hard to find women because there were women in the town and cities if someone had looked. The President of the League of Women Voters and past presidents were perfect choices if he was interested.

    To the reporter who said MA does not have many women to choose from I hope she meant Republican women. Mr. Romney ran against Shannon O'Brien who was an excellent candidate. Jane Swift was the governor when Mr. Romney arrived and he and his operatives convinced her to return to western Massachusetts. Too bad that Mr. Romney did not put his full attention to the state. He started running for President 2 years later.

    October 17, 2012 03:19 pm at 3:19 pm |
  24. Shac Cooper

    Like most of the Romney supporters on this thread, I think it was a good idea for Romney to employ affirmative action. He did the right thing when he realized that his staff only found men to be qualified for the job. Romney felt that there had been an injustice done due to social bias. Therefore, he took it upon himself to level the playing field. He demanded that qualified women be found. Some would call this reverse discrimination, but I believe he made the right decision. There should be diversity in leadership positions. This is what the war of independence was about, representation.

    October 17, 2012 03:19 pm at 3:19 pm |
  25. Jean

    Multiple sources are saying that Romney did not, in fact, go looking for women to hire. A woman's group approached him with a list of qualified women. It isn't the only thing he's misrepresented about his term as Governor. His claim that he reached across the aisle to work with Democrats isn't true, either. He vetoed a record number of laws passed by the Democratic controlled legislature and spent millions trying (unsuccessively) to unseat Democrats. It's no surprise that Democrats would support Romneycare. Hardly a difficult thing to convince them of.

    October 17, 2012 03:21 pm at 3:21 pm |
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