Dr Jill Biden has said her doctorate, the subject of a controversial opinion column in the Wall Street Journal, is one the achievements of which she is most proud.
“That was such a surprise,” she told CBS Late Show host Stephen Colbert on Thursday, seated next to her husband, Joe Biden. “It was really the tone of it … 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.”
Writing for the Journal, Joseph Epstein, a former adjunct professor at Northwestern University, suggested her doctorate in education from the University of Delaware did not entitle her to use the honorific “Dr”, as she was not medically qualified. Her use of “Dr” therefore “feels fraudulent, not to say a touch comic”, he wrote.
The column met with widespread outrage and accusations of sexism, as well as delight in the apparent hypocrisy of many attendant rightwing attacks. The Journal’s editorial page editor defended the column, calling its critics “overwrought”.
Dr Biden’s thesis was on maximising student retention in community colleges. She also has two Masters degrees. She has said she will continue to work in education while she is first lady.
“I taught all eight years while I was second lady, right,” she told Colbert, referring to the eight years in which her husband was vice-president to Barack Obama.
“I’m really looking forward to being first lady and doing the things that I did as second lady. Carrying on with military families and education and free community college, cancer [research] that, you know, Joe and I have both worked on. And then I’m going to teach as well.”
She also said her husband had attended when she defended her doctoral thesis – “I got to hand her her doctorate on the stage, University of Delaware,” he said – and expressed thanks to those who defended her against Epstein’s attack.
“Look at all the people who came out in support of me,” she said. “I mean, I am so grateful and I was, you know, I was just overwhelmed by how gracious people were.”
Colbert asked the president-elect if the column had made him want to stand up for his wife, “to like get out the pool chain and go full Corn Pop on these people”.
That was a reference to remarks for which he was criticised in the Democratic primary, when he reminisced about facing down a bully at a pool in the Delaware of his youth.
The president-elect seemed tempted, but Dr Biden said: “The answer is no.”
He said: “I’ve been suppressing my Irishness for a long time.”
He was also asked if he will be willing to work with Republicans who have attacked him and particularly his son, Hunter Biden.
“If it benefits the country, yes, I really mean it,” he said. “It doesn’t mean I wasn’t angry. This doesn’t mean if I were back in the days in high school, I wouldn’t say, ‘Come here, you know, and go a round.”
Perhaps sensing a relapse – Biden began his presidential run saying he wanted to fight Donald Trump – Dr Biden interjected again.
“But you have to take the high road,” she said.