In an opinion piece published on Friday in The Wall Street Journal, Joseph Epstein, former editor of The American Scholar, triggered a firestorm when he suggested that Jill Biden stop referring to herself as “Dr. Jill Biden” because she was not a medical doctor, having earned a doctorate in education.
On Saturday, The New York Times published a piece in response, titled, “An Opinion Writer Argued Jill Biden Should Drop the ‘Dr.’ (Few Were Swayed.)” The piece began, “Do people who go by Dr. need to carry stethoscopes?”
The Times’ response focused on people who viewed Epstein’s remarks as a “sexist attack,” suggesting the only reason Epstein had offered his perspective was that Biden was a woman.
Yet the Times itself has its own history of dismissing the honorific “Dr.” To take just one example, below is how the Times covered one of the leading neurosurgeons in the world, Dr. Ben Carson:
December 21, 2014: “A conservative think tank recently sent Ben Carson, a potential presidential candidate and fierce critic of the federal health care overhaul, a series of messages to post on Twitter during the grilling in the House of Jonathan Gruber, the M.I.T. economist who advised the Obama administration.”
September 1, 2015: “The spotlight rarely found Ben Carson this summer. While other presidential candidates shot flaming arrows at rivals and sometimes the news media, the soft-spoken Mr. Carson seemed to struggle to be noticed. ‘Well, thank you,’ he told moderators in the first Republican debate. ‘I wasn’t sure if I would get to speak again.’”
March 2, 2016: “Ben Carson, the only Republican to have once threatened the lead of Donald J. Trump in national polls, said on Wednesday that he saw no path forward and would skip a debate on Thursday in his hometown, Detroit, signaling an end to his candidacy after paltry performances in the nominating contests. Mr. Carson stopped short of suspending his campaign and said he would provide more details on Friday, but after his dismal showing on Super Tuesday, his campaign is effectively over.”
January 11, 2017: “Now Mr. Carson, tapped by President-elect Donald J. Trump to become the next secretary of housing and urban development, will most likely have the power and opportunity to apply his mother’s conservative message to people’s lives …”
May 25, 2017: “Ben Carson, the head of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, faced an intense backlash on Wednesday for calling poverty ‘a state of mind.’”
March 5, 2018: “Before Ben Carson accepted President Trump’s offer to become secretary of housing and urban development, a friend implored him to turn down the job to preserve the reputation he had earned as a brilliant neurosurgeon and lost, in part, as a politician.”
May 13, 2018: “The contempt of the housing and urban development secretary, Ben Carson, for the Fair Housing Act of 1968 has blinded him to policies that are in the nation’s best interest, and made him a prime target for lawsuits and court intervention.”