Romney’s “binder full of women” story was a lie

It was one of the odder moments during last night’s debate.  In response to a question about why Romney was equivocal about supporting legislation advocating equal pay for women, Romney told a story about how he tried really hard to hire women when he was governor, and that he had women’s groups put together “binders full of women” that he would use to hire from.

mitt romney's binders full of womenA lot of folks found the “binders full of women” comment a bit odd rhetorically, but even odder is the fact that the story now appears to be – let’s all say it together now – a lie.

Here’s the transcript from last night:

CROWLEY: Governor Romney, pay equity for women?

ROMNEY: Thank you. And 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 — 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.” And I said, “Well, gosh, can’t we — can’t we find some — some women that are also qualified?”

ROMNEY: And — and so we — 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.

In fact, the story is a lie.

Romney wasn’t concerned about the lack of women in government as he was forming his cabinet, and he didn’t ask women’s groups for the binders to help him out. Women’s groups were concerned about the issue even before the gubernatorial elections, so they put together binders and then gave them to Romney after he was elected.

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. There were more than 40 organizations involved with the Massachusetts Women’s Political Caucus (also bipartisan) as the lead sponsor.

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.

I have written about this before, in various contexts; tonight I’ve checked with several people directly involved in the MassGAP effort who confirm that this history as I’ve just presented it is correct — and that Romney’s claim tonight, that he asked for such a study, is false.

It’s 2:36am and I still haven’t gotten to bed.  So I think it’s time for a word from the Thompson Twins.


Follow me on Twitter: @aravosis | @americablog | @americabloggay | Facebook | Instagram | Google+ | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the Executive Editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown; and has worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, the United Nations Development Programme, and as a stringer for the Economist. He is a frequent TV pundit, having appeared on the O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline, AM Joy & Reliable Sources, among others. John lives in Washington, DC. .

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