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. Michelle

    Seems a bit of a stretch to me, I wouldn't have noticed a similarity at all if I hadn't read about it everywhere online. I even struggle to see the similarities now, is it the eyes?
    Honestly I'd been hoping for a less white Jesus, that's my only disappointment.

    March 18, 2013 at 4:01 pm |
    • Peter

      Is Jesus light skinned and the devil is dark skinned.

      Wait a minute.......

      March 18, 2013 at 4:03 pm |
    • Pale is pretty

      Jesus is darker than a lot of ppl I know.
      What's your unprovable point again?

      March 18, 2013 at 4:05 pm |
    • Michelle

      Wasn't trying to make it sound like I thought there were any racist implications or anything. I couldn't be less of a historian or bible scholar, but I'd always heard that based on where he was born he would've had a dark middle eastern skin tone, which I'm not sure I've ever actually seen in a movie depiction of him.
      Again, this is just based on things I've heard over the years, I'm no expert.

      March 18, 2013 at 4:42 pm |
  2. wisdomVSknowledge

    Wow, I can't believe people are so brain-washed by religion that they would deny the resemblance and actually believe what they are writing! So sad.... and pathetic.

    March 18, 2013 at 4:00 pm |
    • Lycidas

      The only resemblance I see is that of The Emporer from Star Wars and Satan.
      Are you offended by that?

      March 18, 2013 at 4:02 pm |
  3. Randy

    Satan (Obama look-alike, sort of) . . . Do you want to join the Obamacare insurance rolls?

    Jesus . . . Thall shall not tempt the lord.

    March 18, 2013 at 4:00 pm |
    • Peter

      "Satan (Obama look-alike, sort of) . . . Do you want to join the Obamacare insurance rolls?"

      Jesus . . . "You bet. Even a miracle won't make Prudential pay for my latest surgery."

      March 18, 2013 at 4:06 pm |
  4. Jon

    All Americans of (recent) African decent should complain about Satan's being depicted as an African. But what should one expect from channels that air Ancient Aliens and America Unearth? They should have to change their name to The Mythology Channels.

    March 18, 2013 at 4:00 pm |
    • Lycidas

      Should they also complain that the Judge Sampson was darker than Satan?

      March 18, 2013 at 4:07 pm |
  5. RayR

    No one said the bible is not real... i'm sure it's based on "something" that happened... or close to it... (not sure about a giant whale swallowing someone..." but it could be considered history.

    March 18, 2013 at 4:00 pm |
  6. Wrathbrow

    The 'good guy' in white robes, the 'bad guy' in all black robes.
    George Lucas later star wars type work at it's best/worst.

    March 18, 2013 at 3:59 pm |
  7. snowboarder

    i haven't seen this show, but i do like good fiction.

    March 18, 2013 at 3:59 pm |
    • Jon

      It's fiction, but not good fiction.

      March 18, 2013 at 4:02 pm |
  8. zaphed

    I did not notice he resembled Obama, my republican neighbor did.. !!!

    March 18, 2013 at 3:57 pm |
    • Just a fact

      Many white conservatives imagine their boogie monsters are black, and now they have a face that haunts their dreams to place on the scary shadow they see lurker around every corner.

      March 18, 2013 at 4:00 pm |
  9. ThomasamohT

    Doesn't look anything like him.

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

      Heck..from the pic they given...I'm expecting light sabers to be drawn in a moment.

      March 18, 2013 at 3:57 pm |
  10. Dominican Mama 4 Obama


    March 18, 2013 at 3:56 pm |
  11. rick

    They need to apologize to our glorious leader!

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

      Why the need for an apology? They're just calling a spade a spade.

      March 18, 2013 at 4:06 pm |
  12. Joe

    We must ban resemblances! They are racist.

    March 18, 2013 at 3:55 pm |
  13. Over 40,000 denominations of insanity

    Some believe the Pope is the Anti-Christ.

    Some believe that celibacy is appropriate for certain people, or for certain positions. It's ridiculous. Celibacy is unnatural and will continue to cause problems for the religious institutions that employ it.

    Many of the people from these same institutions advocate against abortion, but don't understand the realistic benefit of the morning after pill or even basic contraception; their unrealistic wishful thinking is causing the death of many at the hands of disease. Realistically, many abortions could be avoided if a morning-after pill were not viewed as such an evil option. Many of these same people bring children into the world at a high pace, and then would prefer that the rest of society take over and educate their children in their particular brand of religion when they don't plan well.

    In the U.S. recently we learned of the head of Lutheran CMS chastising a minister of that church for participating in a joint service for the victims of the Newtown school shooting.

    One sect calls homosexuality an abomination while the next one in the same denomination is already performing gay marriage.

    One sect, the Westboro Baptist Church believes Americans are being killed at war because America is too kind to "fags".

    One sect believes that Jesus and Satan were brothers and that Christ will return to Jerusalem AND Jackson County, Missouri.

    One sect believes women to be subservient, while another sect in the same denomination promotes equality between the sexes.

    Conflicted right from the very beginning, Christianity continues to splinter and create divisions and more extremism as it goes.

    Has anything improved with Christianity since 200+ years ago?

    Thomas Jefferson, POTUS #3 (from Notes on the State of Virginia):

    Millions of innocent men, women, and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burnt, tortured, fined, imprisoned; yet we have not advanced one inch towards uniformity. What has been the effect of coercion? To make one half the world fools, and the other half hypocrites. To support roguery and error all over the earth.

    James Madison, POTUS #4, chief architect of the U.S. Constitution & the Bill of Rights (from A Memorial and Remonstrance delivered to the Virginia General Assembly in 1785):

    During almost fifteen centuries has the legal establishment of Christianity been on trial. What has been its fruits? More or less in all places, pride and indolence in the clergy; ignorance and servility in the laity; in both, superstition, bigotry, and persecution.

    John Adams, POTUS #2 (in a letter to Thomas Jefferson, 09/03/1816):

    I almost shudder at the thought of alluding to the most fatal example of the abuses of grief which the history of mankind has preserved – the Cross. Consider what calamities that engine of grief has produced! With the rational respect that is due to it, knavish priests have added prostitutions of it, that fill or might fill the blackest and bloodiest pages of human history.

    Ben Franklin (from a letter to The London Packet, 3 June 1772):

    If we look back into history for the character of present sects in Christianity, we shall find few that have not in their turns been persecutors, and complainers of persecution. The primitive Christians thought persecution extremely wrong in the Pagans, but practised it on one another. The first Protestants of the Church of England, blamed persecution in the Roman church, but practised it against the Puritans: these found it wrong in the Bishops, but fell into the same practice themselves both here and in New England.

    Thomas Paine (from The Age of Reason):

    All national institutions of churches, whether Jewish, Christian or Turkish, appear to me no other than human inventions, set up to terrify and enslave mankind, and monopolize power and profit.

    March 18, 2013 at 3:55 pm |
  14. slk

    Is CNN going to be responsible for anything that happens due to this article?
    There are alot of hate filled people out there, that just something to get them to act out.
    Is this the role of CNN now?
    I hope not.

    March 18, 2013 at 3:55 pm |
    • nonconformist

      Are you going to admit responsibility for giving them the opt out clause of blaming CNN? I thought not. Misplacing blame is chronic in this country and you comment is proof of it.

      March 18, 2013 at 4:00 pm |
    • Paul

      Every news organization is covering this. Why single out CNN?

      March 18, 2013 at 4:04 pm |
  15. blackjesuscom

    Please provide me with biblical and scientific proof that Jesus Christ was white, blond headed and blue eyes. The Truth Always Matters.

    March 18, 2013 at 3:54 pm |
    • nonconformist

      Please provide proof that Jesus is a god. And that the devil exists. I'll wait...

      March 18, 2013 at 4:01 pm |
  16. Lycidas

    Oh brother...all I can say to those who are just looking for an argument; Grow up.

    March 18, 2013 at 3:54 pm |
  17. Barack Hussein Obama

    Time to fess up. Mohamen Mehdi Ouazanni is my twin brother.

    March 18, 2013 at 3:53 pm |
  18. Hoss

    The only way this guy is Obama is if it's Obama 100 years from now..it's cause he's black, isn't it? Even though thousands of white guys have played satan in the past...but of course, it's okay if it's a white guy...there is an obvious double standard toward white's in this country...white racism is absolutely fine...any other racism is not...ridiculous

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

      They didn't say it was obama just that it looked like him. If it was a white guy that looked like obama they would have said the same thing. It's the comparison of facial features plus the fact that the devil and obama are EVIL Plain and simple. The devil is a shape shifter and manifests his form in many ways to fool us. He has taken the form of obama and his evil is upon us.

      March 18, 2013 at 4:17 pm |
  19. kim f

    LOL at "The project also has a book tie-in".... Yes, it's called the Bible...

    March 18, 2013 at 3:53 pm |
  20. rc roeder

    Yes Satan does resemble the President. The actor skin tone in real life is similar to Caucasian; his face is darkened for the role. His face has some prosthetic additions, also not uncommon I films. I would look at the directors/producers and their beliefs, which I believe is to the right. Would they admit that they had done this, no? Why would they, you are already drawing the conclusion they wanted you to draw. The Christian church and religion has been used change sediments that favor the church in subtle and sometime (crusades, witch burning, inquisition...) not so subtle ways.

    March 18, 2013 at 3:52 pm |
    • Akira

      "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-$2300 in 2007"

      Nope, thatks not it.

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

      *that's not it.

      March 18, 2013 at 3:58 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.