Wall Street Journal opinion editor defends op-ed on Jill Biden: She ‘can’t be off-limits’

The Wall Street Journal’s editorial page editor defended the op-ed published last week urging incoming first lady Jill Biden to remove the “Dr.” before her name, saying she “can’t be off-limits” to criticism.

Paul Gigot, the head editor for the Journal’s opinion section, published his defense for the piece online Sunday and in Monday’s newspaper and accused President-elect Joe Biden’s team of responding to the op-ed in a “Trumpian” manner.

In the piece, titled “The Biden Team Strikes Back,” Gigot alleges Joe Biden’s team aimed to strategically call attention to the op-ed “to use the big gun of identity politics to send a message to critics as it prepares to take power.”

Essayist and short-story writer Joseph Epstein wrote the op-ed in question, encouraging the incoming first lady not to refer to herself as a doctor because she is not a medical doctor. Jill Biden earned her doctorate in 2007 from the University of Delaware.

“The Ph.D. may once have held prestige, but that has been diminished by the erosion of seriousness and the relaxation of standards in university education generally, at any rate outside the sciences,” Epstein said in his op-ed.

Critics and public figures slammed the piece as “misogynistic,” and several medical doctors and scholars came to Jill Biden’s defense for using the “Dr.” title after earning her degree.

In his piece, Gigot acknowledged that Epstein “can be acerbic” but criticized Joe Biden’s team, saying it “elevated Mr. Epstein’s work in what was clearly a political strategy.”

Gigot highlighted two Biden staff members and Douglas Emhoff, the incoming second gentleman, for tweeting out condemnation for the Journal and the op-ed, which he labeled was “fair comment.”

“Why go to such lengths to highlight a single op-ed on a relatively minor issue?” Gigot wrote. “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.”

The editorial page editor cited that Northwestern University, where Epstein previously taught, released a statement condemning his piece and apparently removing him from the university’s website, which Gigot shows “how cancel culture works.”

Gigot also argued that Epstein’s op-ed criticized both men and women for using the title without being a medical doctor. 

“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.”

He added that the Journal’s editorial page has for years only used the title “Dr.” for those who have a medical degree. 

“If you disagree with Mr. Epstein, fair enough,” he wrote. “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,” he concluded.

Biden’s team did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Gigot’s defense of the op-ed.

Tags doctor First Lady Joe Biden op-ed The Wall Street Journal

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