Romney inspired an Internet meme at the second presidential debate with an awkward comment that when he was governor of Massachusetts, he was brought "binders full of women." The statement became a trending topic on Twitter immediately after he said it.
According to ABC News, Romney was responding to a question from a member of the audience at Hofstra University about pay equity for women.
He was attempting to emphasize that as governor, he placed emphasis on having women in his cabinet. The search for women to fill cabinet positions led, in Romney's words, to a women's group bringing him "binders full of women."
CNN reports that a member of the audience Katherine Fenton, asked Obama: "In what new ways do you intend to rectify the inequalities in the workplace, specifically regarding females making only 72 percent of what their male counterparts earn?"
Obama cited the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, the first piece of legislation he signed into law.
When it came to Romney's turn to respond, he began: "An important topic, and one which I learned a great deal about, particularly as I was serving as governor of my state, because I had the chance to pull together a cabinet and all the applicants seemed to be men. 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.'"
ABC News reports Romney continued: “And I said, ‘Well, gosh, can’t we — can’t we find some — some women that are also qualified? '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.”
According to the Daily Mail, even while the debate continued, the online community took up the comment and ran with it, generating thousands of tweets, comments on Facebook and Tumblr blog.
The Daily Mail quotes a few tweets after the "binders" comment:
Chris Savage: "I'll know I've entered the 1% when I get my first #bindersfullofwomen."
Ben Brown: "I'll never forget the day I found my dad's stash of #bindersfullofwomen #debate."
Dave Weller: "I'd love to see the meeting minutes from that roundtable. #bindersfullofwomen."ABC News reports MichaelAusiello, tweeted: “‘They brought me whole binders full of women’ Did I just hear that? #debate."
According ABC News, The New York Times' Nick Bilton said: “‘They brought us binders full of women,’ doesn't sound good in any setting."
A new Twitter account "@RomneysBinder" that acquired 6,000 followers by the end of the debate tweeted, "Boy, I’m full of women! #debates."
A "Binders Full of Women" Facebook account was created and a BindersFullofWomen.com domain name was purchased soon after Romney made the comment.
According to CNN, the memes the comment produced include a photo of Hillary Clinton, with a caption that said: "Romney still uses binders? LOL."
Another meme showed Romney standing at a podium with ring binders stacked by his side.
Commenters note Romney's special knack for inspiring Internet memes with casual remarks. At the last debate, his comment "I love Big Bird" also became an Internet hit.
The Guardian asks why Romney's comment went viral and suggests an explanation:
"Because it was tone deaf, condescending and out of touch with the actual economic issues that women are so bothered about. The phrase objectified and dehumanized women. It played right into the perception that so many women have feared about a Romney administration – that a president Romney would be sexist and set women back."The Guardian also notes that Romney really never addressed the question Fenton asked about equal pay for women.
According to ABC News, other awkward moments in the debate was when Romney repeated the name of a questioner Lorraine Osoria, many times over before he got it right. That moment generated 109,000 tweets per minute, ABC News reports.
The candidates debated the Obama administration's policy on oil drilling. The episode generated 97,000 tweets per minute. Romney also attacked Obama on his pension. Obama responded, quickly: “I don’t look at my pension, its not as big as yours."
Boston Phoenix: Romney's claim about women in his cabinet was misleadingBoston Phoenix claims that Romney's comment at the debate was misleading because he did not actually ask women's groups to bring him female candidates. Boston Phoenix reporter David Bernstein, reports that a non partisan collaboration of women's groups called Massachusetts Governor Appointment Project (MassGAP) took up the task of ensuring equal representation for women in 2002 when they noticed that women held only 30 percent of the top appointed positions in the state.
According to Boston Phoenix,
"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.... 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."Bernstein continued:
"...I've checked with several people directly involved in the MassGAP effort... Romney did appoint 14 women out of his first 33 senior-level appointments, which is a reasonably impressive 42 percent. However... those were almost all to head departments and agencies that he didn't care about -- and in some cases, that he quite specifically wanted to not really do anything. None of the senior positions Romney cared about -- budget, business development, etc. -- went to women."
According to Boston Phoenix, Romney's claim that during his term as governor, he had more women in senior leadership positions than any other state in America was also misleading:
"While 42 percent of Romney’s appointments during his first 2-1/2 years as governor were women, the number of women in high-level appointed positions actually declined to 27.6 percent during his full tenure as governor, according to a 2007 MassGAP study... Secondly, a UMass-Boston study found that the percentage of senior-level appointed positions held by women actually declined throughout the Romney administration, from 30.0% prior to his taking office, to 29.7% in July 2004, to 27.6% near the end of his term in November 2006. (It then began rapidly rising when Deval Patrick took office.)."