Jill Biden hits back at critics of her doctorate and ‘tone’ of WSJ column

Jill Biden says the criticism of her use of the honorific ‘Dr’ caught her by surprise (CBS)
Jill Biden says the criticism of her use of the honorific ‘Dr’ caught her by surprise (CBS)

Jill Biden says she was surprised by a recent op-ed that said she should stop using the title “Dr” before her name.

Speaking to The Late Show host Stephen Colbert in a joint appearance with her husband President-elect Joe Biden, the future first lady also objected to the tone of the article.

“That was such a surprise,” she said. “It was really the tone of it, that I think… He called me ‘kiddo’.”

“One of the things that I’m most proud of is my doctorate. I mean, I worked so hard for it,” she added.

Dr Biden earned her doctorate in education from the University in Delaware in 2007, writing a dissertation titled Student Retention at the Community College Level: Meeting Students’ Needs.

It is standard practice in academic circles for those who have earned doctorates in their field of expertise to use the honorific before their names. Medical doctors use the suffix MD.

However, in an article published last week, Joseph Epstein, former editor of The American Scholar, said that she should drop the title because she is not a medical doctor.

The Wall Street Journal column ran under the headline: “Is There a Doctor in the White House? Not if You Need an MD.”

The opening line reads: “Madame First Lady — Mrs Biden — Jill — kiddo: a bit of advice on what may seem like a small but I think is a not unimportant matter. Any chance you might drop the ‘Dr’ before your name? ‘Dr. Jill Biden’ sounds and feels fraudulent, not to say a touch comic.”

Those rushing to defend Dr Biden included former first ladies Hillary Clinton and Michelle Obama, and Doug Emhoff, who will become the country’s first-ever second gentleman when Vice President-elect Kamala Harris is sworn in on 20 January.

Ms Obama wrote in an Instagram post: “For eight years, I saw Dr Jill Biden do what a lot of professional women do — successfully manage more than one responsibility at a time, from her teaching duties to her official obligations in the White House to her roles as a mother, wife, and friend.

“And right now, we’re all seeing what also happens to so many professional women, whether their titles are Dr, Ms, Mrs, or even First Lady: All too often, our accomplishments are met with skepticism, even derision,” she continued. “After decades of work, we’re forced to prove ourselves all over again.”

Highlighting the accusations of sexism against the future first lady, Mr Emhoff noted: “This article would never have been written about a man.” Ms Harris said that was deeply disappointed that such as article would be given legitimacy in 2020.

Ms Clinton simply tweeted: “Her name is Dr Jill Biden. Get used to it.”

Fox News anchor Tucker Carlson took the criticism further this week saying that her doctorate means “basically nothing” and that the future first lady was a doctor in “the same sense that Dr Pepper is”.

He also said that her motive for pursuing the title was “status anxiety” and viciously called her “borderline illiterate”.

In the interview, Mr Biden fondly recalled his wife achieving her academic goal: “I got to hand her her doctorate on the stage University of Delaware. She had two masters degrees, she kept going to school all the time while teaching at night.”

“Then what happened was I said: ‘Jill why don’t you get a doctorate and make us some real money’,” he quipped. “She gets the doctorate and gets a $2,000 raise.”

Dr Biden said she was overwhelmed by “gracious” support she received.

Mr Colbert joked: “Do you think it might be a little bit of a compliment that people were trying to think of something to criticise you about?”

“OK, I’ll take it that way,” she laughed.

Dr Biden will be the only first lady to date to also hold down a full-time paying job, as an educator. She also taught all eight years when she served as second lady.

Read More

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