A Wall Street Journal opinion piece criticising incoming first lady Jill Biden’s doctorate and her use of the title “Dr” because she holds a doctorate in education sciences, rather than a medical degree, has caused widespread outrage in the US, including from predecessor Michelle Obama. The Journal article, published Saturday, has been panned for its attack on Biden, who earned her EdD in 2007 and plans to keep teaching during her husband President-elect Joe Biden’s time in office.
Column author Joseph Epstein was accused of patronizing Biden when he referred to her as “kiddo” and suggested her using the title was “fraudulent” and “a touch comic.” The attack stirred fierce debate, and on Monday, Michelle Obama joined the ranks of those defending the spouse of her husband’s vice president. “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,” she wrote in a post on Instagram.
“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. “After decades of work, we’re forced to prove ourselves all over again,” Obama said.
Michael LaRosa, Biden’s spokesman, told the newspaper on Twitter that “if you had any respect for women at all you would remove this repugnant display of chauvinism from your paper and apologise to her.” Biden herself responded indirectly on Sunday when she tweeted: “Together, we will build a world where the achievements of our daughters will be celebrated rather than denigrated.”
Northwestern University, where Epstein had taught until 2003, was quick to distance itself from him, saying in a statement that the article “casts unmerited aspersion on Dr Jill Biden’s rightful public claiming of her doctoral credentials and expertise.” Doug Emhoff, husband of Vice President-elect Kamala Harris and the country’s first ever second husband, noted, “This article would never have been written about a man.”
And Hillary Clinton, both a former first lady and former secretary of state, simply tweeted: “Her name is Dr. Jill Biden. Get used to it.” The paper’s opinion pages caused controversy in June when 280 Journal employees complained about “lack of fact-checking and transparency” after a piece by Vice President Mike Pence denied there was a second wave of the pandemic in the US.