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Northwestern distances itself from former lecturer after controversial op-ed urging Jill Biden to drop ‘Dr.’ title


The school said in a statement on Saturday that it disagrees with the “misogynistic views” of Joseph Epstein, an author and former professor at the Illinois school who wrote in a Wall Street Journal op-ed published Friday that Biden should drop the “Dr.” because it “sounds and feels fraudulent, not to say a touch comic.”

Addressing Biden as “kiddo,” Epstein wrote in part: “A bit of advice on what may seem like a small but I think is a not unimportant matter. Any chance you might drop the ‘Dr.’ before your name?”

Epstein, the university said, has not been a lecturer there since 2003 — clarifying Epstein’s statement in the piece that he had “taught at Northwestern University for 30 years without a doctorate or any advanced degree.”

“While we firmly support academic freedom and freedom of expression, we do not agree with Mr. Epstein’s opinion and believe the designation of doctor is well deserved by anyone who has earned a Ph.D., an Ed.D. or an M.D.,” the school’s statement said.

Northwestern’s English Department similarly shunned Epstein’s comments, describing them in a separate statement as an “unmerited aspersion” on Biden’s “rightful public claiming of her doctoral credentials and expertise.”

Northwestern also removed Epstein’s profile from its website.

In response to a request for comment Sunday, Epstein, an author and essayist, told CNN in an email, “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.”

He had concluded his piece by writing, “As for your Ed.D., Madame First Lady, hard-earned though it may have been, please consider stowing it, at least in public, at least for now. 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.”

CNN has previously reported that Biden plans to continue to teach while serving as first lady.
Biden’s spokesman, 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 apologize to her,” he wrote.

CNN has reached out to the Wall Street Journal for comment.

Biden received her doctorate in education from the University of Delaware in January of 2007, according to her official biography. She is usually addressed in public with the “Dr.” honorific, and official documents typically include it before her name.

CNN’s longtime policy only refers to medical doctors as “Dr.” in its reporting, per its stylebook.

Epstein met swift backlash online following the op-ed’s publication, including from Doug Emhoff, the husband of Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, who argued in a tweet that it “would never have been written about a man.”

“Dr. Biden earned her degrees through hard work and pure grit. She is an inspiration to me, to her students, and to Americans across this country,” Emhoff wrote.

Chasten Buttigieg, the husband of former Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg, also took issue with Epstein’s piece, expressing his discontent in his own tweet.

“The author could’ve used fewer words to just say ‘ya know in my day we didn’t have to respect women,'” he wrote.

CNN’s Chandelis Duster contributed to this report.



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