Washington (CNN) -In what appears to be an unprecedented move, the audience at President Obama's town hall meeting Thursday may include people found through a casting call, which was advertised on a web site for actors.
MTV, BET and CMT are the three networks sponsoring the event, which will be held at BET headquarters in Washington D.C.
The invitation to participate in the event was posted on the sponsor's web sites and through social media. But it was Back Stage, which bills itself as an online resource for actors, models and other performers, that stirred up controversy when it posted a casting call notice for the same event.
Back Stage, which has helped to fill roles for "reality-based projects," said it was seeking "males and females, 18+" for "A Conversation With President Obama."
This tactic raised eyebrows and drew criticism leaving the White House to distance itself from the seat filling process.
An aide said "we're not building the crowd. You'll have to check with our hosts at MTV."
CNN contacted Kelly McAndrew, a spokesperson for MTV's parent company, Viacom, who said they never referred to the invitation as a casting call. But she acknowledged that more than 500 people who responded to the invitation were pre-screened, were asked to submit a current photo of themselves, and show up for a face-to-face meeting.
"We're going to have a very diverse looking audience," said McAndrew. "We want gender diversity, we want ethnicity diversity, we want religious diversity, we want political view diversity. We want diversity of all kinds."
Reached by phone, Back Stage national casting editor Luke Crowe said it was his writer that added "casting" to the notice. And while the original language did not include that word, the invitation was originally found on MTV's online casting call page for shows like The Real World.
Crowe, who now finds himself in the middle of a controversy, said he didn't intend to cause any problems for MTV or the White House. He posted a note on the Back Stage web site to try and set the record straight.
"It seemed like a clever way to engage young people in politics," he wrote. "But I certainly didn't think it was controversial, and would never have expected the attention it's now receiving.