Thomas Gallatin / December 14, 2020

Jill Biden Is a ‘Doctor’ in Pretension

Joe Biden’s wife has a doctorate in education, but insists on being called “Dr.”

Joe Biden’s wife Jill holds a doctorate, but is she a “doctor”? The Bidens insist she be addressed that way. But the question ignited quite the social media hubbub over the weekend following a Saturday Wall Street Journal op-ed by Joseph Epstein titled, “Is There a Doctor in the White House? Not if You Need an M.D.” In his cheeky piece, Epstein, a former lecturer at Northwestern University who chafed himself at being referred to as a “doctor,” blasts Mrs. Biden over her insistence on being referred to as “Dr.” Jill Biden. He argues, “In contemporary universities, in the social sciences and humanities, calling oneself Dr. is thought bush league.”

For daring to question this, Northwestern University’s English Department has removed Epstein’s profile from its website. Journal editorial page editor Paul A. Gigot writes that he too has faced calls for cancellation: “This has triggered a flood of media and Twitter criticism, including demands that I retract the piece, apologize personally to Mrs. Biden, ban Mr. Epstein for all time, and resign and think upon my sins.”

Why the hubbub? Mrs. Biden received an Ed.D. from the University of Delaware and is currently an English professor at North Virginia Community College, where, as is often the practice of college students, she is referred to as “Dr. Biden.” And again, she and Joe typically insist that she receive that address. But the White House is not some college campus, nor are American citizens a bunch of students under her tutelage.

Needlessly vain and pretentious is Mrs. Biden’s demand, as well as confusing. An example of this confusion was recently displayed by celebrity-turned-political analyst Whoopi Goldberg, who mistakenly identified Mrs. Biden as a physician, suggesting she should become the next surgeon general because she was such a great doctor.

In fact, back in 2013, the LA Times’s Michael McGough questioned Mrs. Biden’s penchant for the “Dr.” title, as he wrote, “I have lots of friends (and a brother-in-law) with Ph.Ds. None of them expects to be addressed as ‘Dr.’ So what’s up with Jill Biden?” He also noted that Condoleezza Rice, who likewise holds a Ph.D., was simply referred to as “Ms. Rice.” And that’s while she was serving as George W. Bush’s secretary of state, a role with much more responsibility than that of the first lady.

And if anyone remains uncertain of Mrs. Biden’s motive, Joe made it clear in 2009. As reported by the LA Times’s Robin Abcarian: “Joe Biden, on the campaign trail, explained that his wife’s desire for the highest degree was in response to what she perceived as her second-class status on their mail. ‘She said, "I was so sick of the mail coming to Sen. and Mrs. Biden. I wanted to get mail addressed to Dr. and Sen. Biden.” That’s the real reason she got her doctorate,’ he said.“

Finally, the most insidious aspect of this ridiculous issue is that the public misunderstanding serves to feed a narrative that Joe’s perspective on and "plan” for tackling COVID is that much more “legitimate” than President Donald Trump’s because he’s married to a doctor. It may be subtle, and a correction is offered in certain instances like the aforementioned Goldberg confusion, but the false narrative is clearly there. By insisting on the title of “Dr.” Mrs. Biden shows her own pretension and, ironically, personal insecurity.

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