“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.” Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney uttered those words in the middle of the debate last night, and the reaction was swift. Internet memes sprung up faster than they did with Clint Eastwood.
The problem, it is turning out, is that the story behind it is false.
It is now being widely reported that two of the women who led the effort in 2002 to have more women appointed to high-level positions in Massachusetts as part of MassGAP approached both Romney and his challenger Shannon O’Brien to get a pledge from them to appoint more women if elected governor.
Carol Hardy-Fanta, former co-chair of MassGAP’s higher education committee, stated to The Huffington Post that “It was an initiative of women’s organizations, not to force [Romney’s] hand, but to make it be something he had to follow through on. He didn’t go out looking for these binders.”
Liz Levin, the chairwoman of MassGAP, also told the Huffington Post that the group spent months identifying, vetting and collecting resumes of qualified women. O’Brien has also stated that MassGAP told her campaign that “that they were going to send [the binders] to us. Whoever won was going to get this.”
Levin said Romney had little personal involvement with MassGAP. His campaign had tasked his nominee for lieutenant governor, Kerry Healey, to work with the organization on recruiting women. Healey helped secure Romney’s pledge to appoint women, and MassGAP presented the binders and highlighted especially qualified applicants to Healey after Romney was elected.
Romney never met with MassGAP.
Amanda Henneberg, a Romney spokeswoman, said that the details were not important. She stated that “The incoming Romney administration worked with MassGAP to find the best qualified women for top positions in Massachusetts government. The efforts resulted in Massachusetts having the most women in top positions in the entire country.”
It has been noted that this, too, is incorrect. The study that Henneberg refers to was not well controlled and has been reported as being fairly useless.