A March 2 report on Sinclair Broadcast Group’s morning news program The National Desk hid the conservative affiliations of a right-wing activist while quoting his opposition to student debt cancellation. The report, which aired on 68 Sinclair-owned or -operated local TV stations around the country, also pushed misleading claims from two conservative organizations about student debt relief while failing to include independent voices in favor of debt cancellation.
Democrats’ plans for student debt cancellation range from between $10,000 and $50,000 per borrower, and CNBC reported that the lower figure would cancel all student debt for about 33% of federal student loan borrowers and the higher amount would end student debt for 80% of borrowers.
The misleading Sinclair report from correspondent Angela Brown, which was heavily tilted against canceling student debt, aired absurd commentary from a man named Matt Noyes. Noyes called student debt cancellation “unfair” and made light of the burden of student debt -- talking about his “sacrifices” of making his own coffee instead of going “to Starbucks every day. Because if the federal government’s going to pick up the tab, why not.” The Sinclair report failed to mention that millions of Americans put off starting families or buying homes because of their student debt burden.
Brown misleadingly introduced Noyes as only “a graduate of the University of Albany” who has paid off his student loans. But according to his author profile at the libertarian Mises Institute, Noyes works for the Japanese Conservative Union, the Japanese counterpart of the American Conservative Union, which puts on the right-wing Conservative Political Action Conference each year. (Incidentally, the JCU is led by an influential figure in a Japanese cult.)
Brown next cited the conservative National Taxpayer Union to counter Democrats’ statements that student debt cancellation would help the economy. But economists and other experts say student debt relief would be beneficial. A Moody’s Economics vice president, William Foster, told NPR that even partial student debt cancellation would have significant results for the economy, and it would help address rising income inequality. According to Business Insider, a paper from Bard College’s Levy Economic Institute estimated that canceling student debt “would translate to an increase of $86 billion to $108 billion a year, on average, to GDP.” Business Insider and a special CNBC report on student debt cancellation noted many other benefits, as well.
Lastly, Brown turned to the right-wing organization Campus Reform, which is funded by conservative dark money groups and often posts poorly sourced daily articles alleging bias by professors against conservative students or policies. These misinformation-laden posts by Campus Reform -- which has also compiled contact information of college professors to facilitate harassment -- sometimes lead to violent threats against them.
Brown cited this organization to push the claim that canceling student debt would just cause colleges to increase tuition even more, completely ignoring the role a lack of government funding plays in tuition increases. As CNBC reported, a comprehensive report on tuition increases from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities stated that “limited state funding has contributed to rising college costs.” Michael Mitchell, the lead author of the report, told CNBC that “nearly every state has shifted the responsibility of funding higher education from the state to students over the last 25 years.” Economic Policy Institute’s Josh Bivens also told CNBC: “Policymakers cut back funding for higher education, and these cutbacks were made up with huge increases in tuition costs, forcing people to take on more debt.” Bivens said canceling student debt is “recompense for a string of bad policy failures.”