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Northwestern University has distanced itself from its former lecturer Joseph Epstein who, in an article published by the Wall Street Journal, criticised the incoming first lady for using the title Dr when she is not a medical professional.
Epstein’s article has met with a backlash after he said the use of the title by Dr Jill Biden, who has a doctorate in education, “sounds and feels fraudulent, not to say a touch comic”.
Northwestern has now scrubbed Epstein’s page from its website, where he was previously listed as an emeritus lecturer of English.
In a statement, the university said that it is “firmly committed to equity, diversity and inclusion, and strongly disagrees with Epstein's misogynistic views.”
Without mentioning names, Dr Biden on Sunday tweeted that she wants to “build a world where the accomplishments of our daughters are celebrated, rather than diminished.”
Together, we will build a world where the accomplishments of our daughters will be celebrated, rather than diminished.
— Dr. Jill Biden (@DrBiden) December 14, 2020
In the op-ed published on Friday, Epstein 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.”
Dr Biden has a bachelor's degree, two master's degrees and has earned her doctorate from the University of Delaware in 2007. The Obama White House biography describes her dissertation as focusing on “maximizing student retention in community colleges” which Epstein disparaged as an “unpromising title”.
"Between the honorary degrees given to billionaires, the falsely intelligent, entertainers and the politically correct, just about all honour has been drained from honorary doctorates," he wrote.
Epstein concluded the piece by asking her to “forget the small thrill of being Dr Jill, and settle for the larger thrill of living for the next four years in the best public housing in the world as First Lady Jill Biden”.
Dr Biden's spokesperson, Michael LaRosa, called the op-ed a "disgusting and sexist attack" in a tweet, addressing the Journal's opinion pages editor, that called for the piece's removal.
"If you had any respect for women at all you would remove this repugnant display of chauvinism from your paper and apologise to her," he wrote.
.@jamestaranto, you and the @WSJ should be embarrassed to print the disgusting and sexist attack on @DrBiden running on the @WSJopinion page. If you had any respect for women at all you would remove this repugnant display of chauvinism from your paper and apologize to her.
— Michael LaRosa (@MichaelLaRosaDC) December 12, 2020
Douglas Emhoff, the husband of vice president-elect Kamala Harris, praised Dr Biden's "hard work and pure grit" in a tweet on Saturday, adding: "This story would have never been written about a man."
Meanwhile, the opinion editor of the WSJ, Paul A Gigot, accused president-elect Joe Biden’s media team of elevating the op-ed as part of a clear “political strategy.”
“Why go to such lengths to highlight a single op-ed on a relatively minor issue,” asked 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. It’s the left’s version of Donald Trump’s ‘enemy of the people’ tweets.”
He further said that this strategy was used to protect Joe and Hunter Biden during the campaign, “so it’s no surprise that they’re keeping it up as they head to the White House.”
Asked about the backlash to his article, Epstein told CNN he had “no comment, apart from saying that I thought mine a lightly humorous piece, but I fear there isn't much humor in the world, especially among the politically correct”.