The piece, written by Joseph Epstein, 89, argued that only medical doctors should use the title Dr and minimised Dr Biden’s academic work, which many readers criticised as misogynistic.
“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,” Mr Epstein wrote.
He also called Dr Biden, 69, “kiddo” in the piece, and called her doctoral dissertation “unpromising” based on its title, “maximizing student retention in community colleges.”
Paul Gigot, the editorial page editor for the Wall Street Journal, wrote a defence of the piece on Sunday called “The Biden Team Strikes Back” after the backlash on social media.
“Why go to such lengths to highlight a single op-ed on a relatively minor issue? 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,” he wrote.
He likened complaints that the editorial was misogynistic to Donald Trump calling journalists “the enemy of the people.”
“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 said.
Mr Gigot claimed that the Biden administration rallied the press to criticise the editorial.
“The difference is that when Mr. Trump rants against the press, the press mobilizes in opposition. In this case the Biden team was able to mobilize almost all of the press to join in denouncing Mr. Epstein and the Journal,” he wrote. “Nearly every publication wrote about the Biden response, reinforcing the Biden-New York Times line: ‘An Opinion Writer Argued Jill Biden Should Drop the “Dr.” (Few Were Swayed.)”
Mr Gigot said the editorial was a fair criticism and did not deserve the derision it generated. He pointed to a 2009 piece in the Los Angeles Times that made similar assertions, and pointed out that at the time it did not result in the same backlash.
‘As long ago as 2009, the Los Angeles Times devoted a story to the subject. From the piece by Robin Abcarian: “Joe Biden, on the campaign trail, explained that his wife’s desire for the highest degree was in response to what she perceived as her second-class status on their mail,” Mr Gigot wrote. “‘She said, “I was so sick of the mail coming to Sen. and Mrs. Biden. I wanted to get mail addressed to Dr. and Sen. Biden.” That’s the real reason she got her doctorate,’ he said.”
Mr Gigot claimed that some critics demanded that Mr Epstein be banned from further editorial writing at the paper, and that he should apologise and resign.
Joe Biden’s communications director, Elizabeth Alexander, called the piece “sexist and shameful. Be better @WSJ.”
Senator Kamala Harris’s husband, Doug Emhoff, said the piece would “never be written about a man.”
Even conservative commentators were critical of the piece. Meghan McCain, a host on The View and daughter of former Senator John McCain, lashed out at the editorial.
“I am so sick of the way accomplished, educated, successful women like @DrBiden are talked about in the media by misogynistic men. BEYOND SO SICK OF IT,” she wrote.
Mr Gigot said critics had the right to complain about the piece, but that the page would not shy away from publishing essays that might provoke backlash.
“If you disagree with Mr Epstein, fair enough. 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,” he wrote. “And since it’s a time to heal, we’ll give the Biden crowd a mulligan for their attacks on us.”