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The Whole Story About Obama MTV Town Hall ‘Casting Call’ and Republican ‘Hick’ Ad

National Review Online has discovered a “casting call” for an MTV town hall event scheduled for October 14, the implication being that this is evidence of artifice in the makeup of the audience. The notice, from acting trade publication Backstage.com, would seem to suggest that the audience for the joint MTV/BET/CMT event will be composed of actors, eliciting predictable outrage on the right. In reality, the same submission request was included in the event’s press release, invitations to colleges, and on the network websites.

PoliticalWire reveals the possible true purpose of this meme, which seems to be to undercut news of a very different casting call by Republicans.

Here’s the casting call, from Backstage.com:

PRESIDENT OBAMA TOWN HALL, MTV

MTV, BET and CMT are casting the audience for town hall meeting with President Obama. Shooting Oct. 14, 4 p.m. in Washington, D.C.

Seeking—Audience Members: males & females, 18+.

To apply, email townhallaudience@mtvnmix.com and put “Town Hall” in the subject line. To ensure that the audience represents diverse interests and political views, include your name, phone number, hometown, school attending, your job and what issues, if any, you are interested in or passionate about. Also, provide a recent photo and short description of your political views. Submission deadline: Oct. 14. No pay.

NRO’s Jim Geraghty gently spins this as an administration finger on the scale:

When you suspect the questioners have been pre-screened . . . well . . . there you go.

…UPDATE: On Twitter, a reader observes, “No more ‘I’m sick of defending you’ kerfuffles.”

While obvious to most, Geraghty doesn’t point out that this notice (or the solicitation on MTV.com, the invitation to college students, or the Viacom press release) is in no way connected to the Obama administration. For all we know, they plan to stack the audience with Tea Party sympathizers. That’d certainly be good television.

This story is likely going to get an added push in the right-of-center media in order to distract from the story of a casting call for a National Republican Senatorial Committee ad (since removed) that seems to condescend to the party’s base. From Politico: (h/t PoliticalWire)

A Republican ad that shows a couple of regular-looking guys commiserating in a diner about West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin (D) turns out to have been shot with actors, from a script, in Philadelphia.

But not just any actors: “We are going for a ‘Hicky’ Blue Collar look,” read the casting call for the ad, being aired by the National Republican Senatorial Committee. “These characters are from West Virginia so think coal miner/trucker looks.”

That’s pretty damning stuff, particularly the use of the term “hicky.” The casting call, however, was put out by the talent agency, not the NRSC, and was sent to Politico by a “Democratic official.” According to Politico, here’s what the talent agency was told by an NRSC vendor:

So here’s what we need for casting … 2 featured characters that will be talking to each other at a diner, conversation back and forth. … One male- Age about 55.- Looking for someone to represent the middle of the country… Ohio, Pittsburgh, West Virginia area- Middle class … One male- Age about 45- Middle class- Again, should represent the Ohio, Pittsburgh, West Virginia area of the country.

While the NRSC correctly noted that most people (spoiler alert) know that campaign commercials use the same artificial trappings as any other ad, they still elected to pull the ad from their YouTube account. Here’s the ad via Politico:


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