Vice President Joe Biden and GOP vice-presidential nominee Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) disagreed over Mitt Romney's remark in the presidential debate Tuesday that he asked women's groups to bring him "binders full of women" to fill cabinet positions as governor of Massachusetts.
"I've never had any problem when there's a job opening having as many women apply as men," Biden said Wednesday on CBS' "This Morning." "I mean, so the idea that, that he got, you know, he had to go ask for help to find qualified women -- there's so many qualified women walking around in Boston, Massachusetts ... so many qualified women walking around every place in this country, the idea you got to go ask help to find one, I didn't quite understand what he was talking about."
"They are in abundance," he said.
Ryan, also CBS Wednesday morning, sought to explain the comment. "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," he said. "That's really what he was saying. And by the way, he has an exceptional record of hiring women in very prominent positions in his administration and that's the point he was making."
Romney said Tuesday in answering a question about equal pay that he had personal experience on the subject because all of his cabinet applicants "seemed to be men."
"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 they brought us whole binders full of women."
The comment sparked tens of thousands of tweets, a Facebook page and a Tumblr.
But it's also misleading, as David Bernstein of the Boston Phoenix pointed out:
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.
Bernstein also cites a University of Massachusetts Boston study showing that the percentage of women in senior-level positions declined slightly during Romney's tenure.