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Michelle Obama defends Jill Biden after op-ed: ‘We could not ask for a better First Lady’


Michelle Obama defended Jill Biden after an opinion piece published in The Wall Street Journal suggested the incoming first lady “drop the ‘Dr.’” before her name, even though she has a doctorate in education, an op-ed that was met with considerable backlash over the weekend.

“For eight years, I saw Dr. Jill Biden do what a lot of professional women do — successfully manage more than one responsibility at a time, from her teaching duties to her official obligations in the White House to her roles as a mother, wife, and friend,” Obama wrote in an Instagram post on Monday, which featured a picture of her and Biden together. 

{mosads}“And right now, we’re all seeing what also happens to so many professional women, whether their titles are Dr., Ms., Mrs., or even First Lady: All too often, our accomplishments are met with skepticism, even derision,” she wrote. “We’re doubted by those who choose the weakness of ridicule over the strength of respect. And yet somehow, their words can stick — after decades of work, we’re forced to prove ourselves all over again.” 

“Is this really the example we want to set for the next generation?” the former first lady asked.

Obama went on to say that she feels “so strongly that we could not ask for a better first lady.”

“She will be a terrific role model not just for young girls but for all of us, wearing her accomplishments with grace, good humor, and yes, pride. I’m thrilled that the world will see what I have come to know — a brilliant woman who has distinguished herself in her profession and with the life she lives every day, always seeking to lift others up, rather than tearing them down,” she added.

Obama is one of a large chorus of prominent political figures and celebrities who have taken to social media to defend Biden in the wake of the op-ed written by essayist Joseph Epstein and published in the Journal on Friday.

In the op-ed, Epstein referred to Biden as “Madame First Lady—Mrs. Biden—Jill—kiddo,” arguing that the incoming first lady being referred to as “Dr.” 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,’” he wrote. “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,” Epstein adds.

The piece generated a wave of criticism over the weekend, including from Michael LaRosa, a spokesman for Biden, who condemned the paper for publishing what he referred to as a “disgusting and sexist attack” and called on it to apologize.

“If you had any respect for women at all you would remove this repugnant display of chauvinism from your paper and apologize to her,” LaRosa tweeted on Saturday.

Paul Gigot, editorial page editor for the Journal, defended Epstein’s op-ed in a piece published Monday, arguing that the commentary is “fair.” 

“The issue of Jill Biden’s educational honorific isn’t new. As long ago as 2009, the Los Angeles Times devoted a story to the subject. From the piece by 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.’”

Gigot also defended Epstein’s use of the word “kiddo” to refer to Biden, saying that her husband, President-elect Joe Biden, also “used it to refer to his wife in the context of his many proposals of marriage” during a speech in 2012.

“Mr. Epstein also infuriated dozens of educators defending their doctorates. But that status isn’t sacrosanct or out-of-bounds for debate. Mr. Epstein’s point applies to men and women and his piece also mocked men for their honorary degrees,” he wrote.

“Mrs. Biden is now America’s most prominent doctorate holder and is taking a leading role in education policy. She can’t be off-limits for commentary,” Gigot added. 

“If you disagree with Mr. Epstein, fair enough. Write a letter or shout your objections on Twitter. But these pages aren’t going to stop publishing provocative essays merely because they offend the new administration or the political censors in the media and academe. And since it’s a time to heal, we’ll give the Biden crowd a mulligan for their attacks on us.”

Tags biden administration Biden family Biden transition Jill Biden Joe Biden Michelle Obama The Wall Street Journal

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