The New York Times uses the honorific “Dr.” for both Madeleine Albright and Henry Kissinger. So why doesn’t it do the same for Condoleezza Rice, Ph.D.?
The Times’ policy is to let people with doctorates decide if they want to be referred to by this title. Rice, who earned a Ph.D. in 1981 from the Graduate School of International Studies at the University of Denver, in a rare blow for unpretentiousness, asked the Times to call her “Ms.” (Most newspapers dispense with such formalities and on second reference call people only by their last names.) Albright was referred to as “Mrs.” and then “Ms.” during most of her tenure with the Clinton administration. In 1999 she found out that the Times left the designation up to the individual and asked for the upgrade. Henry Kissinger, Ph.D., told the Times he preferred “Mr.” (He must not have told too many other people since he is almost universally called “Dr. Kissinger.”) In recent years the Times has more or less taken him at his word, calling him “Mr.” in about two-thirds of its references and “Dr.” in the other third. According to etiquette columnist Miss Manners, the title “Dr.” is more appropriately reserved for people who have been educated in addressing maladies of the body, not of state.
Explainer thanks Kathy Park of the New York Times, Judith Martin, aka Miss Manners, and reader Jeffrey Fields for suggesting the question.