'The Boston Globe' Obtains Mitt Romney's 'Binders Full Of Women'

Apr 12, 2017
Originally published on April 12, 2017 5:51 pm

A former staffer shared with The Boston Globe the three ring-binders full of female candidates for consideration to serve in Gov. Mitt Romney's cabinet — the "binders full of women" that surfaced in a 2012 presidential debate.

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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

An update now on a political scandal that once rocked the nation.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

CANDY CROWLEY: Governor Romney, pay equity for women?

MITT ROMNEY: Thank you, and important topic.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

The setting - October 16, 2012, the second presidential debate between then President Barack Obama and his Republican opponent Mitt Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts.

SHAPIRO: When he was asked to discuss women's pay issues, Romney tried to describe his effort to hire more women into his administration. His word choice was a little artless.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

ROMNEY: We took a concerted effort to go out and find women who had backgrounds that could be qualified to become members of our cabinet. 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.

CORNISH: Oh, yes, the binders full of women. Hard to believe now, but back then, this was a full-on gaffe.

SHAPIRO: Democrats seized on Romney's awkward turn of phrase as a way to criticize the governor both for weakness on women's issues and for his robotic demeanor. And the Internet seized on the binders, too.

CORNISH: There were Facebook pages and Twitter accounts like @Romneysbinder and countless Halloween costumes that year.

SHAPIRO: There was a parody cartoon sketch.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTFIED MAN: (As Mitt Romney) Binders keepers.

CORNISH: A rap parody.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BINDERS FULL OF WOMEN")

THE SEAN WARD SHOW: (Rapping) Binders full of women that's my modus operandi. You ain't heard?

BARACK OBAMA: Can you say that a little louder, Candy?

ROMNEY: Binders full of women.

SHAPIRO: The late night treatment.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THE DAILY SHOW")

JON STEWART: Binder of women, book of broads, notebook of nipples, whatever.

CORNISH: Even a "Jeopardy!" category.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "JEOPARDY!")

ALEX TREBEK: And a binder full of women.

SHAPIRO: And nobody knew whether these were real life binders, and they certainly didn't see the light of day until now.

JIM O'SULLIVAN: I got the binders a couple of weeks ago. A former Romney aide alerted me to the fact that they had found them while cleaning up their office.

CORNISH: This scoop comes to us from Jim O'Sullivan. He writes about politics for The Boston Globe.

O'SULLIVAN: And I said, oh, geez, you know, this is a political artifact worthy of the Smithsonian. I should absolutely have a look.

SHAPIRO: O'Sullivan said the first thing he noticed about the two plain white three-ring binders is that they're very substantial.

O'SULLIVAN: They're heavy. They're more than seven pounds apiece. They're, in fact, packed to the gills, as the governor said, with women. It's a lot of cover letters and resumes and CVs and the type. They're big, fat, thick binders full of women.

CORNISH: Far from the punch line the binders became, Jim O'Sullivan says they're evidence of a very organized effort to get more women into leadership roles in state government.

O'SULLIVAN: It tells you how much our politics has changed in the last four years. I mean, Romney was pilloried for this. And then you had - we had last year with Donald Trump, which was such an amazingly offensive campaign in many ways. And I think it makes people view of Governor Romney certainly in a different light.

SHAPIRO: Especially these days, a gaffe is in the eye of the beholder.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BINDERS FULL OF WOMEN")

ROMNEY: Binders full of women. Binders, binders full of women. Mine have more women. Binders full of women. Binders, binders full of women. Can we find some women?

THE SEAN WARD SHOW: Binders full of women, that's my modus operandi. You ain't heard?

OBAMA: Can you say that a little louder, Candy? Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.