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. wisdomVSknowledge

    Fascinating... the religious right wing has extreme close ties with the ultra-conservative republican party, which is probably why an actor that had some resemblance to Obama was selected to play the part of Satan. Don't deny that there is a resemblence... we aren't ALL blind. I've even heard southern white preachers from their pulpits or on TV programs refer to Obama as the anti-christ, satan and other hateful metaphors. I'm not surprized, not really. Brain washing is something that religious fanatics have developed into an art... including Christians. I'm not an Obama fan, didn't vote him, don't support most of his policies. However, I can't imagine anyone stooping so low as to portray him as Satan on a national broadcast. GOP, I strongly suggest that you separate yourself from religious fanatics if you want a decent chance at the next election!

    March 18, 2013 at 3:52 pm |
  2. Derrick Osborne

    I'm sure that Burnett & Co. are VERY thrilled that with a little slight of artistry, they have more people talking about the mini-series. Whatever you'[re politics,

    The travesty is: A number of Biblical scholars have noticed that the show seems to be "Europeanizing" characters in the story. In particular, it seems as though characters with positive roles are being cast as white, while roles of characters engaging in evil are more likely to be filled by actors with darker skin.

    Burnett is as pathetic as the folks who think that Obama = Satan!

    March 18, 2013 at 3:52 pm |
  3. Grady

    Satan is just misunderstood. A victim of bad PR and gossip.

    March 18, 2013 at 3:52 pm |
  4. Be Heeled from Satan!!!!!!


    March 18, 2013 at 3:51 pm |
  5. Lila

    I watched a couple episodes and it was ok. If they did something so tacky I'll never watch again.

    March 18, 2013 at 3:51 pm |
  6. Jack Nelson

    If the resemblance fits, wear it. It's only art imitating real life. Obama has done so many ungodly things already that he's a dead ringer for the part.

    March 18, 2013 at 3:50 pm |
  7. Bob spelled backwards

    I love this thread! Give Christians a chance to prove they are bigots, and they fall all over themselves to do it! We are at ten pages full of putrid Christian bigotry already, and it will be more and more!

    They just can't help themselves! They are so racist they just can't help themselves!

    March 18, 2013 at 3:49 pm |
    • Lycidas

      I'm guessing you have failed to notice the ppl who played some of the heroes in the series were black eh?

      March 18, 2013 at 3:56 pm |
    • baptist_deacon

      What Christians are you talking about? The producers? They deny that they made "Satan" look like Obama. The tweets writers? They don't say they are Christians...Are you a bigot if you think the character looks like Obama? Your post is stupid and you are being intelecually dishonist in your thinking. You are the bigot here....

      March 18, 2013 at 3:58 pm |
    • Bob spelled backwards

      I'm guessing that your reading comprehension is so low that you didn't understand that I was talking about all the racist post here about the one character mentioned in the story.

      March 18, 2013 at 3:58 pm |
  8. It's Sergeant to you!

    We have managed to create a culture that tries to find any reason to be stupid. Somehow, we want to take away programs aimed at helping young students become successful in order to preserve their future by saving a dollar. We can argue, that, with a straight face and claim we care about the future. Yet, we stop for the 30 seconds it takes to develop a moronic thought, put it in writing and spread it out like wild fire in hopes of influencing someone's thoughts, turning them, again, stupid. With that being said, no, it doesn't look like President Obama.

    March 18, 2013 at 3:49 pm |
  9. Jim Bob Lacrotte (my close friends call me Teresa)

    My mother -in -law is "The Devil" and she looks nothing like the guy who plays Satan in "The Bible"... except maybe for the wart, but hers has hair.

    March 18, 2013 at 3:48 pm |
    • Billy


      March 18, 2013 at 3:49 pm |
  10. SAAB

    if Satan has even a one percent resemblance with Obama, I would take Satan over God; Satan seems to understand human issues more than God does. Hail Obama, Hell with God.

    March 18, 2013 at 3:47 pm |
    • Bob spelled backwards

      There was a form of Satanism that believed God was actually the evil one who had given Satan a bad rap. God is about servile obedience and harsh rules and intolerance and extreme punishment, whereas Satan was for individual liberty and choice and enjoying your life. Moreover, they felt God's behavior in the Bible, with all his murders, and what he does to Job to prove a point to satan, and all the rest, those are evil behaviors. Indeed, the worst thing in the Bible are done by God, not Satan.

      Interesting perspective. Of course, there's no Satan either, but I find it interesting that in one form or another, some people have long recognized that there is something seriously wrong with the Abrahamic god.

      March 18, 2013 at 3:57 pm |
  11. Lou Summers

    I am beginning to think that evolution has left the brain behind.

    March 18, 2013 at 3:47 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      A lot of people think dysgenics is advancing in our world. Maybe that has something to do with the increase in atheism

      March 18, 2013 at 4:00 pm |
    • The Demon Deacon

      Bill Deacon
      Is irrelevant. Billy is an obsequious papal apologist troll.

      March 18, 2013 at 4:03 pm |
    • Science

      Testbpage 11 fred

      Goofy fredie

      Just a test

      March 18, 2013 at 5:39 pm |
  12. Reality

    And the utter idiocy continues unabated. Maybe it is the Neaderthal portion of the human genome?

    For your $199 check made out to the National Geographic's Genographic Project and a DNA swab:


    "Included in the markers we will test for is a subset that scientists have recently determined to be from our hominin cousins, Neanderthals and the newly discovered Denisovans, who split from our lineage around 500,000 years ago. As modern humans were first migrating out of Africa more than 60,000 years ago, Neanderthals and Denisovans were still alive and well in Eurasia. It seems that our ancestors met, leaving a small genetic trace of these ancient relatives in our DNA. With Geno 2.0, you will learn if you have any Neanderthal or Denisovan DNA in your genome."

    March 18, 2013 at 3:47 pm |
  13. Greg

    I didn't notice that Satan in episode 3 looked like Obama... But I was extremely suprised to find out in episode 2 that Samson was actually a rastafarian!! Who knew?? Oh well... Irie, mon!

    March 18, 2013 at 3:47 pm |
  14. Jay

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

    March 18, 2013 at 3:47 pm |
  15. SJH

    Its a discrace and a shame to paint a black man as satan. What has America become?

    March 18, 2013 at 3:46 pm |
  16. Obama

    I am satan you idiots

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

      Yep, and y'all can't do a thing about it. I run this nation. I kicked your God's butt, and He is Dead.

      It is MY show now, and you will do what I want. Let's get it started ... Sarah Palin, you get your lil' hinnie over here and lay down, we're going to start our new Adam and Eve immitation.

      March 18, 2013 at 4:17 pm |
  17. Jcraw

    Frankly, I don't see it. This actor looks better. He doesn't have Obama's long mouth and thin lips. I think people are making mountains out of molehills.

    March 18, 2013 at 3:45 pm |
  18. IAM

    I tried watching this film. Several times. Well, it is still the worst film ever made about the bible. It is like a poorer rendition of 300 for the bible. I am amazed that the history channel bought this crap.

    March 18, 2013 at 3:45 pm |
  19. Josef F

    A more interesting question is why did the History Channel make a movie about the bible since none of the stuff in the bible actually happened and is, therefore, not history.

    March 18, 2013 at 3:45 pm |
    • this sith is'th

      Once they play it on the History channel it becomes part of history, QED.

      March 18, 2013 at 3:52 pm |
    • Talented Xth

      To say the bible doesn't actually have truth in it is ludicrous. All of the Men in the Old Testament can actually be found in history. You don't know history buddy.

      March 18, 2013 at 3:57 pm |
  20. BillyG

    Why the hell is this Fing show on the "History Channel" anyway? I don't remember Satan in my history classes.

    March 18, 2013 at 3:44 pm |
    • Saraswati

      That's a question a lot of people are asking...

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

      The History Channel is no longer about history, but entertainment. Crredibility left the History Channel some time ago.

      March 18, 2013 at 3:54 pm |
    • Just a fact

      It's a lot like professional wrestling on the SyFy channel, I mean, I understand it's fiction, but where does the science part come in?

      They should rename the History channel to "The HisStory Channel" for the Hearst & Disney owners are in the business of telling story's to sell ad time, nothing more. That's entertainment for you!

      March 18, 2013 at 4:09 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.