Salon also reported at the height of the 2008 election that the McCain campaign was paying ghost-writers to falsify letters-to-the-editor across the US, claiming that Sarah Palin was a nifty, qualified candidate.
Such dirty tricks stem from tactics exposed last year in primary documents made public at the Reagan library, calling for manipulation of book distribution and use of taxpayer money to seed foreign and domestic pro-war propaganda. Oliver North and "working groups" like the Heritage Foundation link these 1980s covert astroturfing ops with Hannity and the current Fox mileu.
While this actor's claim does not specifically prove hosts like Hannity used the fake caller services his parent company sells, Hannity's record of being caught manipulating public opinion, deceptively editing video, suppressing opposing views, and lopsided call ratios through the decades speaks for itself. His show doesn't sound like America and never has.
It has been documented and time-stamped on Twitter for years now, how "average" Hannity callers are denied public rebuttal time and guests set up the "false equivalency". Dissenters describe how Hannity's screeners practice bias and intimidation, requiring they produce a return phone number in exchange for air time.
But if on-air calls to political commentary shows were faked without disclosure, fines or license revocation are well within the jurisdiction of the FCC or Attorney General's office. Although it might be hard to prove the host was in on it, it's the FCC license holder that would be accountable anyway.
Hannity has always maintained it's the listeners and sponsors who decide if they want deliberately distorted programming, but this would be deception of a higher order, if he had actors pretending for example to be soldiers, or military families, doctors, health care workers, etc.
Hannity's tricks, out-of-context smears and questionable charity "expenses" suggest he at least owes a skeptical US public a simple denial of his knowledge of this practice. Otherwise, we may well assume he has been faking calls all throughout his 20 year career - especially if we follow his methods of reporting.
Updated: In "Exclusive: Limbaugh's parent company still using actors to fake radio call-ins, exec tells Raw Story" a source in Premiere's entertainment division is reported to have confirmed the service was still being offered.
Limbaugh and Hannity have both responded on their Monday afternoon shows, denying they ever used this staged call service. A statement by the firm confirmed they are indeed supplying actors to deceive audiences with "custom calls": "Premiere On Call is a recently launched audio service connecting local entertainment radio stations with great voice talent to supplement their programming needs. The service is not utilized by News/Talk programs or stations."
Updated - see important follow ups: