An academic’s call for first lady-elect Jill Biden to “drop the doc” in her name has been labeled “misogynistic” by his former employer, which appears to have removed the author’s profile from its website.
Writing in The Wall Street Journal, Joseph Epstein called President-elect Joe Biden‘s wife “Kiddo” and said her use of the honorific felt “fraudulent” and “comic.”
Epstein, an essayist and former lecturer of English at Northwestern, argued that only medical doctors should use the title, which would exclude Jill Biden, who has two master’s degrees, and a doctorate of education from the University of Delaware in 2007.
Biden is referred to as “Dr. Jill Biden” in news releases from President-elect Biden’s team. She is also given the title in her official Twitter and Facebook accounts.
The University, where Epstein has been an honorary emeritus lecturer, has moved to distance itself from the op-ed.
“Northwestern is firmly committed to equity, diversity and inclusion, and strongly disagrees with Mr. Epstein’s misogynistic views,” the University said in a statement to student newspaper The Daily Northwestern.
In a brief statement, the institution’s department of English noted that Epstein had not taught there for nearly 20 years and accused him of casting “unmerited aspersion on Dr. Jill Biden’s rightful public claiming of her doctoral credentials and expertise.”
It added: “The Department rejects this opinion as well as the diminishment of anyone’s duly-earned degrees in any field, from any university.”
Epstein’s profile on the university’s website appears to have been removed since the Journal piece was published on Friday.
The article sparked a backlash in some quarters, including among those in Biden’s team.
The first lady-elect’s spokesperson calling it “pretty gross,” while Biden’s communications director, Kate Bedingfield, labeled Epstein’s op-ed “patronizing, sexist, elitist drivel.”
“Dr. Biden earned her degrees through hard work and pure grit,” he tweeted. “She is an inspiration to me, to her students, and to Americans across this country. This story would never have been written about a man.”
Medical doctor and those with academic doctoral degrees (Ph.D.s) have also criticized the views expressed in the op-ed.
Dr. Dara Kass, an emergency doctor at Columbia University Medical Center, wrote on Twitter: “She is Dr. Biden, First Lady-to-be, give her the respect she deserves.”
Ebony Elizabeth Thomas of the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education said : “President and Dr. Biden will be how they are addressed. Period.”
The AP stylebook, a writing guide used by major U.S. publications including Newsweek, also suggests that the term doctor should not be used by those with academic doctoral degrees.
Its latest edition reads: “Use Dr. in first reference as a formal title before the name of an individual who holds a doctor of dental surgery, doctor of medicine, doctor of optometry, doctor of osteopathic medicine, doctor of podiatric medicine, or doctor of veterinary medicine.”
It adds: “Do not use Dr. before the names of individuals who hold other types of doctoral degrees.”
Epstein, Northwestern and The Wall Street Journal have been approached for comment.