"One of the things that I'm most proud of is my doctorate," the incoming first lady told Stephen Colbert

By Virginia Chamlee
December 18, 2020 12:43 PM

Dr. Jill Biden told Stephen Colbert in an interview on Thursday that she was "surprised" by a much criticized Wall Street Journal op-ed last week in which writer Joseph Epstein called the future first lady "kiddo" and advised that she drop the "Dr." from her name because her doctorate isn't in medicine.

"That was a such a surprise," Biden, who has a doctorate in education and has been teaching for decades, said on The Late Show in an interview with husband Joe Biden "And, you know, 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."

Epstein's column referred to the former second lady as "Madame First Lady—Mrs. Biden—Jill—kiddo," and opined: " 'Dr. Jill Biden' sounds and feels fraudulent, not to say a touch comic."

"Your degree is, I believe, an Ed.D., a doctor of education, earned at the University of Delaware through a dissertation with the unpromising title 'Student Retention at the Community College Level: Meeting Students’ Needs,' " Epstein wrote.

He continued: "A wise man once said that no one should call himself 'Dr.' unless he has delivered a child. Think about it, Dr. Jill, and forthwith drop the doc."

The column drew widespread backlash, including from Michelle Obama. The paper's opinion section defended it as "fair comment" and said Epstein was being unfairly maligned for sparking a meaningful conversation. But numerous readers — and Biden aides — objected to Epstein's language and his argument about Dr. Biden's credentials rather than questioning men with similar degrees.

Dr. Biden's spokeswoman wrote in a tweet that the article was "sexist and shameful," calling on the Journal to "be better."

Another Biden spokesperson, wrote that the paper's editorial features editor "should be embarrassed to print the disgusting and sexist attack" of the future first lady.

In their joint interview with Colbert this week, both Dr. Biden, 69, and the president-elect happily recounted the day she received her doctorate.

"Joe came when I defended my thesis," she said.

"I got to hand her the doctorate on stage [at] the University of Delaware," her husband, 78, proudly interjected.

When asked whether he had been angered by the article, the former vice president joked, "I've been suppressing my Irishness for a long time."

Prior to the election, Dr. Biden said that she planned to continue working as an educator even after becoming the first lady. (She also kept teaching while she was second lady.)

"If we get to the White House, I’m going to continue to teach," she told CBS Sunday Morning in October. "It’s important, and I want people to value teachers and know their contributions and lift up their profession."

Dr. Biden elaborated on those plans on Thursday, which Colbert noted would be historic for a first lady.

"It's hard for me to think of its in historic terms I guess, because I taught all eight years when I was second lady," she said. "But 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 ... and I'm going to teach, as well."