Journalists and other liberal activists who spend an unhealthy amount of time online expressed outrage this weekend over a Wall Street Journal op-ed urging Joe Biden's wife to stop referring to herself as Dr. Jill Biden.
Dr. Biden, who holds a doctorate degree in education (Ed.D.) from the University of Delaware, has long insisted on being identified as a doctor. Apart from being married to Joe Biden, it is perhaps her most defining feature as an individual.
Democrats immediately seized on the Journal op-ed, which was authored by celebrated essayist Joseph Epstein. A spokesman for Dr. Biden demanded an apologize for the "repugnant display of chauvinism." Biden's own spokeswoman denounced the op-ed as "patronizing, sexist, elitist drivel."
Most journalists agreed and rallied to the doctor's defense, as did the Merriam-Webster Twitter account:
The word 'doctor' comes from the Latin word for "teacher." https://t.co/wUihrn6Hyq
— Merriam-Webster (@MerriamWebster) December 12, 2020
For some reason, the media haven't always been so enthusiastic about conferring the title of "Dr." to individuals with doctorate degrees in non-medical fields.
Dr. Sebastian Gorka, Ph.D., a prominent Trump adviser, was routinely mocked for demanding proper recognition for the political-science doctorate he earned at Corvinus University of Budapest.
A Washington Post analysis from 2017 found that mainstream media outlets refused to identify Gorka as a doctor and noted that journalists have long frowned on the notion of conferring the title on anyone who isn't an actual physician.
Gorka gets his title on Fox News and in the Daily Caller, Conservative Review and Gateway Pundit. But mainstream news outlets generally refuse to attribute the "Dr." prefix to anyone who is not a medical doctor.
Recent Stories in Satire
Journalist Mark Oppenheimer, who has a PhD in religious studies from Yale, wrote a magnificent takedown of "Dr." usage in the New Republic in 2014, following the death of Maya Angelou, who had been awarded several honorary doctorates and preferred to be called "Dr. Angelou."
"We use titles," Oppenheimer wrote, "just to honor our supposed betters: Queen Elizabeth, Sir Paul McCartney. As an American and a democrat, I think this usage is stupid, un-American, and best left overseas."
Jill Biden appears to be a unique exception to this rule.
A 2015 R Street analysis found that the media had shown greater deference to Biden's education degree than to Dr. Ben Carson's status as one of the premier neurosurgeons in the country. Carson, who was running in the Republican presidential primary at the time, was less likely than Biden to be referred to as "Dr." on first or second reference in the New York Times.
Dr. Gorka awaits his apology.