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

Also on the CNN Political Ticker

– Bindersfullofwomen.com snapped up in 90 seconds

– Colbert says he can't tell differences between Romney and Obama

– 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. Fortinbras

    Charlie Sheen says he wants those back when you are done with them.

    October 17, 2012 08:07 am at 8:07 am |
  2. becky

    The debate did give some insight into the way candidates view women and those in the 47%. Mr. Rpmney is uncomfortable talking about women and their rights. He cannot relate to single parent households and continues to tell us that children do better in two family households. That is simply an exaggeration because so much depends on the parents or the single parent. School systems know that so well.

    That language tends to dis the many households in this country being headed by a single parent. How many are families where the spouse died in the war? After the other wars mostly women were left as heads of household. Is Mr. Romney and those in the conservative wing of his party saying that these women cannot do the. Just how silly is that! Their words are used to support their ideas not to show the truth.

    October 17, 2012 08:11 am at 8:11 am |
  3. Blah blah the wheel's off your trailer

    "I had the chance to pull together a cabinet and all applicants seemed to be men." "And I went to my staff and I said, how come all the people for these jobs are all men?" then "I requested a concerted effort to go out and find women who had backgrounds that could be qualified to become members of our cabinet." HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHHEHEHEHEHEHEHEHEHEHEHEHAHAHAHAHHAHAHHAHAHAHEHEHHEHEHEHEHEH. Mitt Romney has no integrity, no credibility and no shame whatsoever. This man is such a pathological blatant serial liar, a phony and a fraud. What a joke of a man! he still don't support the Lilly ledbetter Act, he's against increasing the minimum wage and he is against women making important decisions that affect their body and personal lives but all of a sudden he wants us to believe he formulated a binder full of women. Well, "THAT WAS EASY." I heard Staples have a whole lot of them on sale! Hehe!

    October 17, 2012 08:11 am at 8:11 am |
  4. Joe from CT, not Lieberman

    Of course, Romney's people have taken to the airwaves to explain that Governor Romney did not say what people actually heard. He actually said something else, and as soon as the audio engineers and film editors get done, you can see and hear what he really said. Just don't pay attention to his body in completely different positions and locations every word.

    October 17, 2012 08:11 am at 8:11 am |
  5. BigErn

    Three things in life are certain: death, taxes, and women demanding special privileges.

    October 17, 2012 08:15 am at 8:15 am |
  6. chris

    Most with a half a brain understood the context of the comment ,But not here ....

    October 17, 2012 08:17 am at 8:17 am |
  7. barefutskier

    so we are going to make fun of a comment,when the real issue is he made an effort to equal the playing field for women.
    think we need to quit acting like kids on the play ground,making fun of comments rather than seeing the facts,but wait.....
    that will never happen with the left swinging media bias.

    October 17, 2012 08:19 am at 8:19 am |
  8. Willis

    Jill, What's Romney plan? He had 90 minutes to tells us. No specific on his 5 point plan.

    October 17, 2012 08:20 am at 8:20 am |
  9. bobby

    My wife almost went through the TV set on this one! MR has no respect or clue about women and the workforce, the question was why the 27% difference in pay. The work/home balance has been around since the 1990's with most major companies that is nothing new. The question was why does my wife as a working professional doing the same job as a white male get paid much less. The answer is Romney and his corporate buddies can for personal gain and profit while the lower classes keep bleeding for his gold spoon.

    October 17, 2012 08:20 am at 8:20 am |
  10. Kelly

    This is utterly hysterical!! My husband works as headhunter, he has files full of women, drawers full of women, databases full of women...and men too, good thing he never said binders!!!

    October 17, 2012 08:22 am at 8:22 am |
  11. Obama2012 Romney1040

    Binders full of women? Really Mitt?

    October 17, 2012 08:25 am at 8:25 am |
  12. NotHere

    Put this with his "You middle class people" statement, only shows how out of touch he really is.

    October 17, 2012 08:25 am at 8:25 am |
  13. emmie

    The post from Joe from CT has got it all wrong. He is describing the chronic, ongoing antics of the Obama administration. Romney was 100% in everything he stated, and he has the transcripts to prove it. You protest too much!

    October 17, 2012 08:27 am at 8:27 am |
  14. Joe Keesling Sr

    As Latter-day Saint wives, we need to support our husbands in their Church assignments. When a man is being considered for a new office in the priesthood or a calling, the wife’s worthiness is also discussed. She needs to be able to give him her full support. Her heart should be centered, not in the things of this world, but in the things of eternal life. Then she will be able to stand beside and support her husband. This is from their own website. Do not take my word for it.

    October 17, 2012 08:30 am at 8:30 am |
  15. Pat in IL

    You have to be more flexible when women hold these jobs......? Don't men have children, too???

    October 17, 2012 08:30 am at 8:30 am |
  16. Tabeth

    Mitt has binders but Obama has them on the job: UN, Secretary of State, Ministry of health and more they are not in binders

    October 17, 2012 08:32 am at 8:32 am |
  17. jak

    IF women are going to be in the workforce, hire them over the men who apply for the jobs. You can find them in binders all over the place. –Romney

    October 17, 2012 08:33 am at 8:33 am |
  18. honest mari

    Romney is completely out of touch with the ordinary man and woman and what they go through on a daily. All this talk I will make sure I will put America go back to work(even though America is already steadily returning to work as evidenced by the last month's job induces compared to the previous) does not add up.He is yet to show us his concrete plan for accomplishing that. Rather he wants us to wait till he probably is in the office and hopelessly wait till he is able to navigate this through. I have never heard or seen any candidate put such proposal on the table for consideration by the American people. Of the so called 5 point plan, I have only heard of or seen one -that's the one for the 5%.Romney is asking us to throw the piece of solid fish we have at hand and hope that he searches the river and catch us one. Romney American are people not numbers that you shift and turn at will. There are so many human issues that go along with their economics that you fail to realise. My guess is that maybe his billion friends have confessed to him that they deliberately hoarded the needed jobs all these years for their selfish ends. This they hope to release for him.What an immoral and unholy thing to do to a multitude of people.!!! The Hand Of Providence is incharge. God bless America.

    October 17, 2012 08:34 am at 8:34 am |
  19. Mary

    That's why I'm surprised that the "Religious" right don't have an issue with Romney and his Mormonism. It's just one step below Scientology.

    October 17, 2012 08:34 am at 8:34 am |
  20. Jane, American from Texas

    The comment threw our president off guard because he has NO experience in creating jobs and doesn't know what a resume looks like...

    October 17, 2012 08:35 am at 8:35 am |
  21. Charlie

    I'm sure Mitt will create 12m jobs, but where would those jobs be located....China?

    October 17, 2012 08:39 am at 8:39 am |
  22. curious

    The Mormon church does not allow women to reach the same level of authority in the church as Willard Romney maintains. Will Romney support felmale Mormans and request the church to change it's discriminatory policy toward women?

    October 17, 2012 08:39 am at 8:39 am |
  23. calvin

    Amazing!!! I am sitting in an office now hearing people comment that Pres Obama was arrogant, rude and that he lost. Yet the polls show him leading the polls from last night. I am not a big fan of Obama but Mr Romney seems to be a liar and never could really answer the questions. President Obama seemed a little more realistic even with his past history. Granted I don't plan on voting for either one, I strongly feel Mr Romney would be a lot worse. God Help-Bless Our Country!!

    October 17, 2012 08:40 am at 8:40 am |
  24. Theresa

    Mitt found out women work for 70 cents on the dollar , that's how he could balance his MA budget! This man can coax a starving dog off a meat truck! What a used car salesman!

    October 17, 2012 08:43 am at 8:43 am |
  25. ExRepublican

    Romney was very disrespectful to the president..Romney seem mad and very rude to Crowley.
    Romney did not explain the Lily law in full details. Romney offended women by signing the binder was full with women name.

    October 17, 2012 08:43 am at 8:43 am |
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