The Two-Way
4:37 am
Wed October 17, 2012

Presidential Debate Spins 'Binders Full Of Women' Meme, Fact Checks

Originally published on Wed October 17, 2012 11:34 am

Answering a question about pay equity for women during last night's presidential debate, Gov. Mitt Romney said something that has become the talk of the Web.

He said that when he became governor, few women applied for cabinet jobs.

"And so we took a concerted effort to go out and find women who had backgrounds that could be qualified to become members of our cabinet," he said. "I went to a number of women's groups and said, can you help us find folks? And I brought us whole binders full of — of women."

During that part of the debate tweets revved up to 104,704 tweets-per-minute. And that phrase "binders full of women" became an instant Internet meme.

It spawned the @romneysbinder twitter feed, a Tumblr blog and a Facebook page with close to 245,000 likes.

Some of what's on there is cutting political commentary, some others are funny. Examples:

The Guardian's Emma Keller spawned some serious commentary about the passage.

"The phrase objectified and dehumanized women," she said. "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."

Others, like the Boston Phoenix, the city's alternative weekly, took issue with Romney's facts.

Romney, the Phoenix reports, did appoint 14 women to his first 33 senior-level jobs, "a reasonably impressive 42 percent." But he didn't ask for that binder, the paper reports. A group of women called MassGAP had they decided they would assemble a list of qualified women, put all that info in binders and hand it to the whomever was elected governor.

It's all fun and games, but you can be certain that both campaigns are fretting about this line today. As you've heard, over and over again this election cycle: Women voters matter — a lot.

Update at 10:54 a.m. ET. Ryan Explains What Romney Meant:

Vice presidential candidate Rep. Paul Ryan went on "CBS This Morning" to explain what his running mate meant when he talked about binders.

"All he simply meant was that he went out of his way to try to recruit qualified women to serve in his administration when he was governor," Ryan said according to a Politico transcript. "That's really what he was saying."

The New York Times, by the way, has picked up on the serious side of this debate. The paper just moved a story that looks at how this debate shifted the spotlight back to women.

"With some polls offering sporadic evidence that Mr. Romney is gaining support among women in the final weeks of the campaign, the president seized every opportunity during their face-off at Hofstra University on Long Island to assert that Mr. Romney, the Republican candidate, would eliminate financing for women's health services, block access to contraceptives, oppose equal pay and undermine the economic recovery for families in which women are the breadwinners," the Times reports.

Update at 12:43 p.m. ET. The Republican Response:

The Republican National Committee responded with a photo contribution to the meme.

President Obama, said RNC Chairman Reince Priebus in a statement, "is not offering a positive vision for the country, all he's offering the American people is a binder full of empty pages."

Update at 12:56 p.m. ET. Romney's Full Response:

Here's video of Romney's full response:

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.