Those 'Binders Full of Women'? Turns Out Romney Didn't Commission Them, Compile Them, or Pay Particular Attention to Them

During last night's debate, a question was raised by an attendee concerning each candidates track record on equality for women in the workplace.

In response to President Obama's touting of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act — the first bill he signed into law — Mitt Romney brought up his efforts to fill cabinet seats with "qualified women" during his time as governor of Massachusetts.

"We took a concerted effort to go out and find women who had backgrounds that could be qualified to become members of our cabinet," Romney told the undecided voters at Hofstra. "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."

Needless to say, the Internet had quite a bit of fun with that turn of phrase: From parody Twitter accounts, to a single-topic Tumblr blog, to a Facebook fan page with nearly 250,000 likes.

But not so fast says David Bernstein of the Phoenix to Mitt Romney: You didn't build that.

Memes and animated GIFs aside, it seems the "binders full of women" line was one of the few "truth massaging" moments that Romney wasn't called on by either Obama or moderator Candy Crowley.

According to Bernstein, there was in fact a "binder full of women," but it wasn't commissioned or compiled by Romney or his aides — it was put together by a collective of Massachusetts women's organizations called MassGAP before the 2002 election.

MassGAP's goal was to get more women into cabinet positions irrespective of which party won the election. "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," writes Bernstein. "They presented this binder to Governor Romney when he was elected."

After flipping through it, Romney did truthfully appoint a commendable number of women to senior-level positions in his cabinet (42 percent overall), but, as Bernstein notes, "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."

Bernstein goes on to point out that, far more troubling, is Romney's claim that, despite having "led and consulted for businesses for 25 years [he] didn't know any qualified women, or know where to find any qualified women."

Not particularly surprising given that in the nearly two decades that Romney was head of Bain Capital, there wasn't a single female partner.

[image via Tumblr, video via BuzzFeed]