Joe and Dr. Jill Biden Address Controversial Op-ed About Future First Lady’s Doctorate

President-elect Joseph R. Biden and Dr. Jill Biden on 'A Late Show with Stephen Colbert.'
CBS

President-elect Joseph R. Biden and Dr. Jill Biden on 'A Late Show with Stephen Colbert.'

While joining Stephen Colbert on The Late Show Thursday, the soon-to-be first couple Joe and Dr. Jill Biden discussed the election, the controversial op-ed about the future first lady's doctorate and whether Trump will attend the inauguration.

"You're about to be the most powerful person in the world," Colbert was quick to mention to President-Elect Joe Biden. "What is President Biden going to put into the world?"

"In the world at large, we got to say America's back... I think the nation's looking for us to be united," Biden said. "Politics have become so dirty and vicious. I think people are looking for us to come together."

Despite being declared the president-elect, President Donald Trump has continued to claim the election was rigged. When Colbert asked whether Biden takes it personally to have a lack of support from Republican leaders, Biden said no.

"They're in a tough spot. I know everybody says, 'well they should just step up,' " Biden explained, adding that "a number of them sent messages to me four weeks ago" in which they admitted to him that they just needed time. "We won Georgia three times," he said laughing.

Speaking further on Republican leaders, the president-elect briefly spoke about Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham who has reportedly argued that the Justice Department should appoint a special counsel to investigate his son Hunter for his business dealings in Ukraine and China. Biden said Graham has been "a personal disappointment" because he was "a personal friend of his."

Despite tensions with Republicans, Biden said he's confident they can come together: "I think I can work with Republican leadership in the House and the Senate. I think we can get things done."

Later on, when Dr. Jill Biden joined her husband she responded to that controversial Wall Street Journal column from essayist Joseph Epstein suggesting she should drop the "Dr." before her name. "Madame First Lady — Mrs. Biden — Jill — kiddo: a bit of advice on what may seem like a small but I think is a not unimportant matter," Epstein wrote. "Any chance you might drop the 'Dr.' before your name?" Dr. Biden received a doctoral degree in 2007 from the University of Delaware and attained a master's degree from West Chester University and Villanova University.

The piece sparked a backlash with a myriad of supporters coming to Dr. Jill Biden's defense, including former First Lady Michelle Obama. "That was such a surprise," she told Colbert. "It was really the tone of it. He called me 'kiddo.'"

She went on to explain that she's proud to have a doctorate because she "worked so hard for it," so it was shocking to read the piece dismissing her achievements. "I was just overwhelmed by how gracious people were."

"It caught me by surprise as well. I really did not see that coming," Colbert admitted after reading it himself.

As for the president-elect's reaction to the op-ed? Biden quipped: "I've been suppressing my Irishness for a long time."

With the inauguration 34 days away, Biden said he hasn't given it much thought as to what he envisions but rather sees everything thus far as "a sense of obligation than wanting to live in the White House." "The country we've been in the last four years is not who we are and we have to get back to who we are. We are a democracy," he said.

Because Trump has continued to deny Biden's win, it's questioned whether there will be a peaceful transfer of power and if Trump will attend the inauguration. Biden said "in a personal sense," it wouldn't bother him should Trump not attend "but in a sense related to history," it would. "We've been the beacon of democracy for the last 200 years and the peaceful transfer of power... is who we are. That's the part I worry about is how that reflects around the world.

Apart from Trump's claims, Biden is also entering office amid accusations surrounding his son Hunter. Colbert warned that he should expect clear attacks coming his way because "people who want to make hay in Washington are going to try and use your adult son." But Biden said it wouldn't impact him from carrying on his duties as president. "We have great confidence in our son. I am not concerned about an accusation made against him. It's used to get to me. I think it's kind of foul play. He's a grown man. He's the smartest man I know... and as long as he's good, we're good."

He also added that there's too much at stake to care about anything that is said and the "American people can smell the phoniness. They can smell what's true and not true."

As for also beginning his presidency amid the novel coronavirus with cases rising, Biden said it's "a critically important thing" for a president to have empathy. He said while "there is a reason to grieve," there will come a time when people won't have to anymore.  "In the meantime, we have to let people know there's a lot of people out there who also need help."