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March 18th, 2013
01:59 PM ET

Producer: Claim of Obama-Satan likeness nonsense

By Dan Merica, CNN
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Washington (CNN) – The third episode of the History Channel's miniseries “The Bible” was supposed to be remembered for the brutality of Babylonian ruler Nebuchadnezzar, the strength of Daniel in the lion’s den, and the birth of Jesus Christ.

But after viewers claimed there was a striking resemblance between Satan’s human form and President Barack Obama, that probably won't be the case.

Buzz on Twitter quickly grew. According to Topsy.com on Monday, there were an estimated 20,000 tweets containing the words “Obama” and “Satan” since the 9:00 p.m. ET hour on Sunday, the hour in which Satan appears in the two-hour show.

In a statement, miniseries producer Mark Burnett called claims there was a resemblance "utter nonsense."

Burnett said the actor who played Satan, Mohamen Mehdi Ouazanni, "is a highly acclaimed Moroccan actor. He has previously played parts in several Biblical epics - including Satanic characters long before Barack Obama was elected as our President."

Ouazanni has had roles in two biblical TV movies - "Jeremiah" and "The Ten Commandments."

Executive producer of the miniseries Roma Downey, Burnett's wife, added, "Both Mark and I have nothing but respect and love our President, who is a fellow Christian. False statements such as these are just designed as a foolish distraction to try and discredit the beauty of the story of The Bible."

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Satan appears during the miniseries’ retelling of the Temptation of Christ, when Jesus fasted for 40 days in the Judean Desert. Satan tests Jesus’ faith, asking him to make bread out of stone and jump from a cliff, but he refuses each temptation and returns to the Sea of Galilee to begin his ministry.

In the desert, Satan is draped in a long, black, hooded robe and with a slight silver tint to his face.

Both Downey and Burnett supported Obama's first campaign for president in 2008, according to Federal Election Commission reports. Downey gave $5,000 to the Obama Victory Fund and $2,700 to the Democratic National Committee in 2008. Burnett also donated to Obama's first campaign - $2,300 in 2007.

Neither gave money to Obama's 2012 campaign.

While the show was airing, tweets poured in noting the resemblance.

[tweet https://twitter.com/glennbeck/status/313120671297306624%5D

[tweet https://twitter.com/lkspringer/status/313470968448315392%5D

[tweet https://twitter.com/DanAmira/status/313491508391182336%5D

Not everyone on Twitter agreed, though.

[tweet https://twitter.com/joshuadubois/status/313489150118608896%5D

[tweet https://twitter.com/jbouie/status/313498892148830208%5D

[tweet https://twitter.com/scottgrimm1/status/313652372561858560%5D

After three episodes, the show has scored strong ratings. Its first episode drew 13.1 million viewers, ratings that trumped CBS’s “60 Minutes” and AMC’s “The Walking Dead.” The second episode drew 10.8 million viewers.

Ratings for the third installment in the five-week miniseries have not been released.

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The project has been a three-and-a-half year process for The History Channel and for Burnett and Downey. Burnett - who is better known as a king of reality television, with “Survivor,” “The Voice” and “The Apprentice” all under his name - told CNN earlier this month that this project was “personal.”

“It was time for an updating, adding fresh visual life to a sacred text,” Burnett said.

Both Downey and Burnett were raised Catholic, Burnett in England and Downey in Ireland. They still regularly attend Mass in Los Angeles. Growing up, both watched the classic biblical films that the Hollywood of yesteryear churned out, like “The Ten Commandments” and “The Greatest Story Ever Told.”

To film their Bible series, the duo set off for the southern tip of Morocco with a crew of around 400 people.
CNN Belief: Reality TV Goliath takes up Bible miniseries challenge, hopes for better outcome

Burnett and Downey consulted a wide range of pastors and academics, including a major evangelical leader and a Catholic cardinal.

Their advisory panel consisted of many people from varied backgrounds familiar with sharing the stories of the Bible, rather than a who’s who of biblical academics.

Joel Osteen, a popular television preacher and pastor of the 30,000-member Lakewood church in Houston, was among those consulted. Osteen and Burnett are friends and were developing a television series together that went on the back burner during the production of this series. Osteen even took his family to Morocco during some of the filming.

While the History Channel owns the exclusive North American rights to the project, Burnett and Downey own the rights to global distribution and theatrical airings, which are in the works. The project also has a book tie-in, games and apps.

- CNN’s Eric Marrapodi and Eric Weisbrod contributed to this report.

- Dan Merica

Filed under: Barack Obama • Belief • Bible

soundoff (2,474 Responses)
  1. Elliott Carlin

    Here you have a TV show being produced and promoted by the heathen, then have the non-tolerant-of-religion types blaming Christians for being racist or bigotted for the show's representation of the Devil. You people are scary, and you vote. No wonder our country is screwed on so many levels.

    March 18, 2013 at 3:44 pm |
    • Heathens?

      "TV show being produced and promoted by the heathen"

      "Roma Downey (born 6 May 1960) is an Irish actress and producer, from Derry, Northern Ireland. She is best known as Monica, the kind hearted angel, on the successful American TV series Touched by an Angel. For her role as Monica, Downey earned several Emmy and Golden Globe nominations. She is currently executive producer on a new epic mini series The Bible to air on 3 March 2013 on the History channel. Downey produced the series with her husband, Mark Burnett; it is their first such collaboration. Downey is playing the role of Mary, the mother of Jesus. Downey is a devout Catholic and is a "Smile Ambassador" for the non-profit organization named Operation Smile which provides surgeries for children around the world who were born with severe cleft lips and palates."

      March 18, 2013 at 3:51 pm |
    • Heathens?

      Mark Burnett also produces "The Apprentice" with his friend Donald Trump...

      March 18, 2013 at 3:57 pm |
  2. iBod

    I'm not one to make a big deal about the slightest things, but you're fooling yourself if you DON'T think that looks like the President.

    In that case, I don't see how how you can go casting this guy without thinking about his resemblance to the President. Since his resemblance crossed our minds, his resemblance likely crossed the minds of those who cast him. Since this guy was hired to play the part of Satan, they obviously thought he fit the part of Satan; and thus the casting crew obviously thought it appropriate that Satan look like Obama.

    ...But we're just going to hear their typical excuses in order to save face.

    March 18, 2013 at 3:44 pm |
    • Elliott Carlin

      You need to turn your TV off, for a very long time.

      Books and animals are much more interesting.

      March 18, 2013 at 3:46 pm |
    • JoeSeattle

      So the casting director is supposed to just pass over anyone who happens to look like the president? That'd kinda suck for the actor – he's going to look like the president – the president's going to look like him for a long time. He might get hungry.

      March 18, 2013 at 3:53 pm |
    • Sly

      iBod, this is NOT the 'slightest thing'! A few years ago, President Obama went mano-on-mano with God Himself, and President Obama obviously kicked God's butt.

      The Devil is running this nation, God is dead, and on March 22nd at 4:71am The World (As we know it) Will End!

      There will only be 2 folks left on Earth – Sarah Palin running around half naked wearing only a bear fur (kinda like she did for those 2 AP reporters that time ...) and .... yep, you guessed it ... President 'I Kicked Gods Butt' Obama.

      Man ... Sarah is going to be getting it all day every day, and these 2 will form the basis of a New Adam and Eve, with a whole bunch of beautiful black-white babies to form a new, better civilization.

      I read all of this is Aesop 10:30 verse III.

      March 18, 2013 at 3:53 pm |
    • iBod

      Elliott, apparently I read more than you do. The religious are the most racist people on the planet. I don't care if they include Christians, Jewish, or Muslims...As soon as the discussion is headed to religion, it's always about racial superiority (my skin is better than yours; my religion is better than yours, etc.). The religious are the cruelest people on the planet, amounting to the deaths of BILLIONS over the course of our species' history. Who do you think slaughtered the Indians, hung the blacks, and gassed the Jews? Wake up call, there, Guy: Religion is racist.

      Jeeze....and YOU vote. You MUST be a Conservative lol!

      March 18, 2013 at 3:54 pm |
  3. Camelspyder

    The History channel and the producers of this show are obviously right-wing Obama haters. I hate to say it, but yes the Satan on this show resembles President Obama. I wish I could say people were just reaching for something anti-Obama to talk about, but this show and the network purposely allowed this foolishness. There is nothing a spokesperson can use as a rebuttal that will convince me of no ill intentions. This is so obvious, that it is not funny and sad. This show is doing a good thing by telling the story of the Bible in the form of a mini-series. It gives a good visual of what was happening and gives children and better understanding of the stories of the bible. However, the people responsible for creating this show FAILED, by letting their political views of President Obama ruin a positive thing. Now I can't watch this show without shaking my head at the negativity they tried to hide under a hooded Satan. Or did they want it to be seen and don't care, because they'll just deny any "resemblance" and laugh about it, off the record? Just pathetic.

    March 18, 2013 at 3:44 pm |
  4. snowboarder

    i heard about him, but i never dreamed he'd have blue eyes and blue jeans.

    March 18, 2013 at 3:44 pm |
  5. Blah blah the wheel's off your trailer

    I heard this movie was filmed on Crawford Ranch. If you look carefully, you'll see the WMDs in the background where the white devil GWB hid them.

    March 18, 2013 at 3:44 pm |
  6. Lib

    Many people in this country have just lost it! I am in belief that the GOP crowd are a bunch of idiots. Pretty sure these are the folks trying to spread something else. Now watch palin and Bachman make a speach regarding this issue. Waiting waiting waiting

    March 18, 2013 at 3:44 pm |
  7. Sly

    Big deal, so President 'I am the Devil' Obama kicked your God's butt, and now He is running this nation.

    I'm happy – my 401K has skyrocketed, He killed Osama 'His Lord' Bin Laden, He ended 2 Bush 'I am God' wars, and my Giants have 2 World Championships in 3 years.

    Somehow the Jesus folks won the Super Bowl, although my Niners would have kicked Balt's butt 8 of 10 times – those teams were not even close in talent ... but somehow ... the dark side won that one.

    March 18, 2013 at 3:43 pm |
  8. joesmith

    it is what it is..

    March 18, 2013 at 3:43 pm |
  9. Dominican Mama 4 Obama

    95% that voted for Obama, summed up right here...

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tpAOwJvTOio

    March 18, 2013 at 3:42 pm |
    • Saraswati

      94% of the black vote went to Jimmy Carter...so you're point?

      March 18, 2013 at 3:45 pm |
  10. Dumb Story

    But of the last 10 stories by CNN on the belief blog it is not about the pope, it's a start.

    March 18, 2013 at 3:41 pm |
    • Jay

      it actually looks like speaker boehner during the state of the union speech. hahaha.

      March 18, 2013 at 3:46 pm |
  11. Emma

    This is not news. This is speculation. For the love of reason CNN, remember that you are a news source, not a hormonal teenager looking for conspiracies.

    March 18, 2013 at 3:41 pm |
  12. Fred

    Well it's a good thing the bible is utter nonsense.

    March 18, 2013 at 3:41 pm |
    • SnafuBob

      I'll give an "amen" to that.

      March 18, 2013 at 3:52 pm |
  13. Reef

    Satan's foreign policy would be to drone attack children, so yeah, I guess I could see why they'd go for a resemblance.

    March 18, 2013 at 3:38 pm |
    • mdwesterngrl

      dip shi**. drones were being used and killed children well before Obama. yikes.

      March 18, 2013 at 3:48 pm |
  14. Dominican Mama 4 Obama

    Dis my new fav video.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bavou_SEj1E

    March 18, 2013 at 3:38 pm |
  15. John

    I think Obama looks like Satan.

    March 18, 2013 at 3:38 pm |
    • Bob spelled backwards

      The great thing about America is that you are free to be that stupid, John.

      March 18, 2013 at 3:42 pm |
    • Blah blah the wheel's off your trailer

      Your mama slept with the devil so that makes you...

      March 18, 2013 at 3:47 pm |
  16. TJT

    uhhhh, a BOOK tie in? You mean like, the Bible?

    March 18, 2013 at 3:38 pm |
  17. wow

    man, people are just reaching now. They make me laugh with their religious crap. Religion was created to control the masses. PERIOD! Nothing less, nothing more. Get your heads outta your butts.

    March 18, 2013 at 3:38 pm |
  18. Shawneo

    Obama was born in Morocco? I thought it was Kenya?

    March 18, 2013 at 3:37 pm |
    • Blah blah the wheel's off your trailer

      No, Morocco was where your mama slep with the Mandingo Warriors.

      March 18, 2013 at 3:49 pm |
  19. John the electrician

    Darkside Obama in starwars vIII

    March 18, 2013 at 3:37 pm |
    • this sith is'th

      Darth Barack

      March 18, 2013 at 3:48 pm |
  20. bostontola

    Will CNN fan the flames on any fabricated controversy?

    March 18, 2013 at 3:37 pm |
    • Bob spelled backwards

      The real question is why so many Christians are so incredibly bigotted that they would fabricate this controversy.

      March 18, 2013 at 3:41 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.