The LA Times takes a cheap shot at Dr. Jill Biden.February 2, 2009 11:05 AM EST ››› JAMISON FOSER
In an article portraying Jill Biden - who is teaching at a community college in Virginia, though she could doubtless land a gig at Georgetown or GW if she chose - as pompous, the Los Angeles Times falsely suggests her use of the title "Doctor" is fraudulent.
Under the sub-head "The vice president's wife holds a doctorate in English -- but she likes to use the prefix that most people reserve for medical doctors," the Times explains:
In 2007, at 55, Jill Biden did earn a doctorate -- in education, from the University of Delaware. Since then, in campaign news releases and now in White House announcements, she is "Dr. Jill Biden." This strikes some people as perfectly appropriate and others as slightly pompous, a quality often ascribed to her voluble husband.
Who are these "others" who find Jill Biden "slightly pompous"? The Los Angeles Times won't say.
The paper described St. Louis University professor Joel Goldstein as seeming "mildly amused" when told Biden likes to be called "Dr" - but it quoted him saying "Occasionally someone will call me 'doctor,' and when that happens my wife makes fun of me a little bit. But nobody thought it was pretentious to call Henry Kissinger 'Dr. Kissinger.'"
Hmmm... that seems to undermine the idea that Biden is being "pompous." Indeed, it suggests that the LA Times is mocking an accomplished woman for using a title that is frequently used, without controversy, by accomplished men.
Next, the Times turns to "Amy Sullivan, a religion writer for Time magazine" for comment. But Sullivan doesn't really support the Times' claim that Biden is "slightly pompous," either - she is quoted saying "Ordinarily when someone goes by doctor and they are a PhD, not an MD, I find it a little bit obnoxious. But it makes me smile because it's a reminder that she's her own person. She wasn't there as an appendage; she was there as a professional in her own right."
Then the Times quoted the head of the Washington Post's copy desk saying his newspaper only refers to medical doctors as "doctor." But he doesn't criticize Biden or call her pompous, either. Finally, the Times quoted a USC professor who made the point that women academics are often addressed by their first name while male colleagues are called doctor. Again, this is not a quote that supports the Times' suggestion that Biden is "pompous" - instead, it is another reminder that we probably wouldn't see such an article about Dr. Henry Kissinger.
It gets worse.
In the middle of an article suggesting that Jill Biden is wrong to refer to herself as "doctor," the Times offers this passage:
Joe Biden, who was chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, is expected to travel widely in his new job. But he may need to tone down the Dr. Jill Biden stories, should he find himself in Germany with his wife.
Last year, according to the Post, at least seven Americans (with degrees from places like Cornell and Caltech) were investigated for the crime of "title fraud" for calling themselves doctor on business cards, resumes and websites. Only people who have earned advanced degrees in Germany or other European Union countries may legally call themselves that.
German investigations of "title fraud" don't have anything to do with Jill Biden. Nobody - nobody except the LA Times, that is - is suggesting that Jill Biden is guilty of "fraud." And Germany doesn't prohibit non-medical doctors from using the title doctor; it prohibits people who didn't earn their doctorate in Germany or the EU to call themselves doctor. Again: this has absolutely nothing to do with Jill Biden. It's just a cheap shot; a clumsy effort to suggest there is something fraudulent about her use of the title "doctor," even though there is nothing wrong with her doing so - by American standards or German.
The Los Angeles Times' sports pages routinely contain references to the owner of the LA Lakers as "Dr. Jerry Buss." The next time the Times wants to call someone pompous for going by "doctor" despite lacking a medical degree, maybe the paper should take aim at their hometown -- male -- sports executive rather than taking cheap shots at a community college professor.