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.
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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. Chuck

    Great Casting!

    March 18, 2013 at 4:13 pm |
  2. SokrMom

    It's fairly jaw-dropping that they chose a person of color to play the devil opposite the virtuous white Israelites, but as far as whether the devil looks like Obama, it probably depends on how much you want him to...

    March 18, 2013 at 4:13 pm |
  3. Jim

    Joe,...You must not live in the real world if you think everyone can and should make 60k-100k a year. The economy does not let that happen.

    March 18, 2013 at 4:12 pm |
  4. ThinkAgain

    I would say this actor looks no more like President Obama than Glenn Beck looks like Mr. Potato Head.

    March 18, 2013 at 4:12 pm |
  5. A May

    Weill I am offended and I am not european.

    March 18, 2013 at 4:11 pm |
    • Lycidas

      Bully for you then.

      March 18, 2013 at 4:13 pm |
    • The real Tom

      Lycidas, why would you think only someone who's black would be offended by the racist stuff?

      March 19, 2013 at 2:08 pm |
    • Lycidas

      "why would you think only someone who's black would be offended by the racist stuff?"

      I don't think only someone who is black...my comment was aimed toward those who are not black.

      March 19, 2013 at 8:07 pm |
  6. Syd

    Yeah, it kinda does look like him. But you know if he even came close to resembling GWB or Reagan or Rove or Cheney the GOP would be screaming "Commie Hollywood Conspiracy!" from the top of Mount Fox News.

    March 18, 2013 at 4:10 pm |
  7. 95% of blacks that voted obama...


    March 18, 2013 at 4:09 pm |
    • ThinkAgain

      All this clip proves is that this woman is a low-information voter. She's calling it an Obama-phone, when it is actually a
      government assistance pgrogram for phone service that has been in existence since the 1980′s.

      The Federal Lifeline program, which is paid for by customer fees on most phone bills, began in 1985 under the universal access initiative INSTATED BY RONALD REAGAN'S ADMINISTRATION.

      BTW, 95%, learn proper English grammar ... your screen name is grammatically incorrect ...

      March 18, 2013 at 4:18 pm |
    • Jabbadahut

      That video says it all.

      March 18, 2013 at 4:24 pm |
    • ThinkAgain, you betta Think AGAIN


      March 18, 2013 at 4:25 pm |
    • midwest rail

      The story you link to clearly states this program began in 1984. These are "obamaphones" how exactly ?

      March 18, 2013 at 4:29 pm |
  8. Lycidas

    I am under the impression that most of the "offended" ppl on these comment boards would probably have more in common skin-wise with Europeans than Africans.

    March 18, 2013 at 4:09 pm |
    • Joe Tomorrow

      Why are you so offended?

      March 18, 2013 at 4:11 pm |
    • And why should that matter?


      March 18, 2013 at 4:12 pm |
    • Lycidas

      I'm offended by stupidity...and that goes beyond skin color.

      The same ppl that will probably harp about "proving" God exists with science will go on here and make claims about racial stuff based on how they feel. They are hypocrites.

      March 18, 2013 at 4:17 pm |
    • George

      "about racial stuff based on how they feel. They are hypocrites."

      And most people posting about religious stuff is based on how they feel and not facts. They are hypocrites.

      March 18, 2013 at 4:22 pm |
    • Lycidas

      "And most people posting about religious stuff is based on how they feel and not facts. They are hypocrites."

      Ummm...no. You do know what a hypocrite is right?

      March 19, 2013 at 1:54 pm |
    • Hmmmm

      Pretense to being what one really is not, especially the pretense of being a better person than one really is. The word is based on the Greek hypokrisis, originally meaning to give an answer. A hypocrite in classical Greek could be an interpreter of dreams, an orator, a reciter of poetry, or an actor. Originally a neutral term, “hypocrite” gained the negative connotation of pretense, duplicity, or insincerity.

      March 19, 2013 at 2:04 pm |
    • The real Tom

      Wait a minute. Lycidas, do you think the people posting the racist crap are people like Akira?

      March 19, 2013 at 2:07 pm |
  9. Garvey

    Unless those two pull out light sabres and hack each other to bits, that looks like one super-dull program!

    March 18, 2013 at 4:08 pm |
  10. Dl

    This pretty much seals the deal for the birthers & muslim accusers – Obama IS the devil!

    March 18, 2013 at 4:08 pm |
    • Strange

      "13 For such people are false apostles, deceitful workers, masquerading as apostles of Christ. 14 And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. 15 It is not surprising, then, if his servants also masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve." 2 Corinth 11:13-15

      Does anyone really think Satan would have appeared anything like that to Christ? I mean come on, he can look any way he wants and he's there to try and tempt Jesus. Do you really think he would show up like some emaciated Sith Lord? Please, he probably looked more like George Clooney wearing the finest purple embroidered silks available at that time hemmed in gold and adorned with jewels.

      March 18, 2013 at 4:18 pm |
  11. Reality

    Before Jesus and Satan/BO, there was Buddha and Satan/BO. It appears the NT scribes like the OT writers, copied quite a bit from those who came before:

    To wit:

    ProfessorMarcus Borg [Jesus and Buddha: The Parallel Sayings] notes the following traditions about the Buddha that provide something of a parallel to this cluster:

    "Then Mara the evil one drew near to him, and said: "Let the Exalted One exercise governance, let the Blessed One rule."
    "Now what, O evil one, do you have in view, that you speak this way to me?"

    "If the Exalted One were to wish the Himalayas, king of the mountains, to be gold, he might determine it to be so, and the mountains would become a mass of gold?'

    The Exalted One responded: "Were the mountains all of shimmering gold, it would still not be enough for one man's wants. He that has seen suffering - how should that man succu-mb to desires?"

    Then Mara the evil one thought: "The Exalted One knows me! The Blessed One knows me!" And sad and sorrowful he vanished then and there. (Samyutta Nikaya 4.2.10)

    During the six years that the Bodhisattva practiced austerities, the demon followed behind him step by step, seeking an opportunity to harm him. But he found no opportunity whatsoever and went away discouraged and discontent. (Lalitavistara Sutra 18)

    I thought: "Suppose I practice entirely cutting off food?' Then the deities came to me and said: "Good sir, do not practice entirely cutting off food. If you do so, we shall infuse heavenly food into the pores of your skin and you will live on that." (Majjhima Nikaya 36.27)

    March 18, 2013 at 4:07 pm |
  12. wisdomVSknowledge

    It takes a weak mind not to see the resemblance. Be on your way, these are not the droids you're looking for.

    March 18, 2013 at 4:06 pm |
  13. religion is a fable

    I think the big story here should be "Claim that anything ever written in the bible ever happened nonsense" That includes the existence of a god or any god, as well as the existence of jesus. CNN is starting to look like christian news network.

    March 18, 2013 at 4:06 pm |
    • Lycidas

      So I guess Hezekiah's tunnel was make believe eh?

      March 18, 2013 at 4:10 pm |
    • Chuck

      Then all History is a Fable

      March 18, 2013 at 4:17 pm |
    • Jabbadahut

      So, when the rapture happens it will be no surprise who will be left behind to endure the tribulation.

      March 18, 2013 at 4:17 pm |
    • snowboarder

      lol. the rapture.

      March 18, 2013 at 4:19 pm |
  14. usresham

    Jesus was a socialist and Satan was a capitalist.
    Jusus cared for poor, sick and aged. Obama cares for poor, sick and aged
    Satan was after wealth and full of greed so are republicans.
    If you wish to compare, Obama should be called Jesus and rednecks ,greedy and blood suckers are Satan.

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

      interesting point you're making.

      March 18, 2013 at 4:09 pm |
    • ThinkAgain


      March 18, 2013 at 4:11 pm |
    • Dmitri

      Jesus did not simply give fish, but he taught people how to fish. Jesus also taught individual freedom in the face of bondage. Just two of many concepts that are anti-socialist as taught by Jesus himself. I think it's time to re-read The Bible.

      March 18, 2013 at 4:15 pm |
    • Jabbadahut

      If you try to make those matches, then it is no big surprise who you voted for.

      March 18, 2013 at 4:15 pm |
  15. A May

    Come on folks. If you believe in Heaven and hell, satan is a part of the bible too. How can you make a movie about Jesus and not include the devil. It was because of the devil we sinned in the first place. Go back and read your bible. Oh and by the way! Whoever came up with the idea that satan looks like Obama needs their head examined. If that's the only thing you can think of you are sick in the first place to even mention it.

    March 18, 2013 at 4:04 pm |
    • Ummmm

      Your God isn't real and neither is Satan.

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

      God made the plan for everything and god made the devil, so all the devil is doing is what god made him do. God is the source of all evil, and he acts like it in the Bible. Slaughtered everyone in a flood instead of re-educating them. Eternal Auschwitz for billions instead of a little post-life therapy and forgiveness.

      It's a good thing there isn't a god.

      March 18, 2013 at 4:11 pm |
  16. needNewGov

    I watched some of the show last night and everything about it seemed weird. Satan is a black guy, Jesus looks to be a white guy from Kansas and I have no clue where some of the other folk are from. I was looking forward to this show but came away feeling disappointed.

    March 18, 2013 at 4:04 pm |
    • Dave

      Anyone who would watch drivel like this instead of The Walking Dead is not fit for consumption.

      March 18, 2013 at 4:14 pm |
  17. Mork

    Why not use a photo where we can actually see a side-by-side? That photo looks like Ben Ken-obi getting ready to fight Darth Maul!

    March 18, 2013 at 4:04 pm |
  18. Sly

    Has anyone noticed that Karl Rove looks like the Pope? I think it is possible, perhaps likely, that Karl Rove is God.

    Please, only serious responses – this was all portended in chap 6 10:30 v.2a

    March 18, 2013 at 4:03 pm |
  19. Jim

    Put dark makeup on our old a$$ congress men and they will look the same!!

    March 18, 2013 at 4:03 pm |
  20. JoeSeattle

    In case you're wondering, whenever the thinking minority of the world hears you liberals fussing over your savior Obama, we just think "pathetic losers looking for a handout".

    If you want more out of life, work harder, sacrifice more. Stop using the corrupt crony capatalists (who seem very chummy with Obama, actually) as an excuse to take from regular people who work much harder than you. As bad as are the finance crooks at the top (and they are pretty evil), if you can't pull in $60k/year in the U.S., a good insight to the root of your problem is but a mirror away. The most stifled people in the U.S. are those trying to work their way into the six-figure range, and they're carrying more dead weight from you than the high finance pirates.

    March 18, 2013 at 4:02 pm |
    • religion is a fable

      oh shut up no one is wondering what you think.

      March 18, 2013 at 4:04 pm |
    • Google Translator

      Translation: "I am trying really hard to be one of those 'high finance pirates', but I'm not there yet so I'm bitter and resentful."

      March 18, 2013 at 4:05 pm |
    • In Santa we trust

      Do you think that the oil and gas industries fall into the parasite range with their huge subsidies?

      March 18, 2013 at 4:06 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.