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Wall Street Journal’s Opinion Editor Defends That Terrible Article Criticizing Dr. Jill Biden For Using the Honorific She Earned

Joe Biden points to his wife Dr Jill Biden as she waves from a stage.

Following the Wall Street Journal’s publication of a grossly sexist op-ed taking inexplicable issue with Dr. Jill Biden’s use of her doctoral honorific, Twitter was flooded with demands for an apology. Not only is Paul Gigot, the paper’s editorial page editor, not apologizing, he’s published a full-on defense of the article. Even more, he’s claiming that the backlash was a coordinated “political strategy.” “The Biden Team Strikes Back,” reads the headline.

Gigot is accusing Biden strategists of launching “an identity politics campaign” against the article after a number of staffers, as well as Vice President-elect Kamala Harris’ husband Doug Emhoff, added their voices to the already enormous chorus of people criticizing the outlet.

“Why go to such lengths to highlight a single op-ed on a relatively minor issue?” wrote Gigot. “My guess is that the Biden team concluded it was a chance to use the big gun of identity politics to send a message to critics as it prepares to take power. There’s nothing like playing the race or gender card to stifle criticism.”

Gigot suggests that the article couldn’t be sexist because Joseph Epstein’s criticism of using the “Dr” honorific for non-medical degrees could be applied to men as well as women.

Sure, Epstein’s criticisms of Dr. Biden could have been applied to a man. But they weren’t. Instead, they fit right into the WSJ’s long history of sexist commentary on women’s personal and professional choices. Epstein referred to Dr. Biden as “kiddo,” which Gigot defended by noting Joe Biden calls her this. The paper could also, then, have referred to a prominent man by the pet name his wife calls him. But again, they didn’t. The hypothetical scenarios in which the WSJ treats men the way they do their female subjects are technically possible but they have yet to be seen, making these kinds of rebuttals entirely dubious.

Epstein’s criticism of Dr. Biden was pure sexism from top to bottom. He repeatedly diminishes her impressive accomplishments based on a bizarre belief that “no one should call himself ‘Dr.’ unless he has delivered a child.” (Emphasis mine.) He also spends much of his op-ed complaining about the frivolity of honorary doctorates.

Except Dr. Biden doesn’t have an honorary doctorate. She earned a Doctor of Education in educational leadership. Her dissertation was on how to meet the academic, psychological, social, and physical needs of community college students. She also has two Master’s degrees, one of which she finished while also teaching and basically immediately before giving birth. But we already know that that’s a feat Gigot isn’t likely to value.

In his defense of Epstein’s op-ed, Gigot called the response from Biden’s team “very Trumpian” because apparently he doesn’t see a difference between actual specific criticism and declaring all media the “enemy of the people.”

“Mrs.”–really??–”Biden is now America’s most prominent doctorate holder and is taking a leading role in education policy,” he wrote. “She can’t be off-limits for commentary,” a thing absolutely no one is suggesting. But if a prominent outlet is going to publish reductive, sexist dribble and try to pass it off as worthwhile political commentary, they’re going to get called out for that!

Similarly, in a statement to CNN, Epstein said he thought his article was a “lightly humorous piece,” adding, “but I fear there isn’t much humor in the world, especially among the politically correct.” Conservative opinion writers could at least try to make their sexist arguments, you know, funny before they accuse the rest of the world of not being able to take a joke.

(image: Win McNamee/Getty Images)

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Vivian Kane (she/her) is the Senior News Editor at The Mary Sue, where she's been writing about politics and entertainment (and all the ways in which the two overlap) since the dark days of late 2016. Born in San Francisco and radicalized in Los Angeles, she now lives in Kansas City, Missouri, where she gets to put her MFA to use covering the local theatre scene. She is the co-owner of The Pitch, Kansas City’s alt news and culture magazine, alongside her husband, Brock Wilbur, with whom she also shares many cats.