If the worst thing the rightwing can find to attack her over is her doctorate, incoming First Lady Dr. Jill Biden is sort of flattered, actually. In a sit-down interview with Stephen Colbert, Jill Biden addressed Joseph Epstein’s controversial op-ed for the Wall Street Journal in which the writer belittled Biden for using the “Dr.” honorific. Referring to her as “kiddo”, Epstein claimed that because Biden’s doctoral degree is in education, not medicine, her usage of the title feels “fraudulent, even comic.”
When Colbert mentioned that he was surprised by the entire ordeal and hadn’t seen it coming, Biden said she was quite shocked as well.
“Nor did I! It was really the tone of if that I think — you know, being called ‘kiddo,’” Biden said. “One of the things I’m most proud of is my doctorate. I worked so hard for it.” She added that she was so grateful for the support she received afterwards.
“Do you think it might be a little bit of a compliment that people were trying to think of something to criticize you about, like ‘Oh, what do we got?'” said Colbert.
“Ok, I’ll take it that way,” said Biden.
After already completing two separate masters degrees, Biden returned to school and was awarded a Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) in educational leadership from the University of Delaware in 2007. Biden used the “Dr.” title prominently through her eight years as Second Lady and throughout her husband’s campaign to little controversy until the WSJ piece.
The fact that criticism came from WSJ only added to the controversy. In 2007, the Pulitzer-winning paper and its parent company were purchased by Rupert Murdoch‘s News Corporation, which also owns Fox News. The deal came with reassurances that the paper’s core journalism would remain independent, but while the paper’s op-ed pages have always slanted conservative, much has been made of the editorial section’s notable drift to the right both politically and culturally. One might expect the sort of small ball complaint of grievances over the use of “Dr.” from, say, the opinion pages of The New York Post (another News Corp. entity), but not the Journal.
It’s also another development in media that tends to politicize everything it possibly can. No one cared about the term for the past 12 years that Biden has been on the national stage, but suddenly we’re supposed to? The fact that many see Biden’s use of Dr. as a recognition of her independence and accomplishments separate from her marriage only adds to the sting.
While it is true that most journalistic style guides recommend only using “Dr.” to describe those with medical degrees as opposed to a doctorate in other topics, Biden is certainly not alone in using the term. Besides, if someone who uses their career to shoot people up with Botox are called doctors with no reservation, should we really be worried that someone who has dedicated her career to education with the same level of study is using it as well?