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. good reporting has perished

    people who see Jesus in a grilled cheese sandwich > CNN reporting

    March 18, 2013 at 4:46 pm |
    • voodoo

      he was on my tur-d the other day,, why didn't they report that?

      March 18, 2013 at 4:47 pm |
    • BobPitt

      Funny when someone will pay thousands of dollars for the cheese sandwich, just because it looks like Jesus, Blond with blue eyes, and fair skin.. what?? Jesus did not looked like that?

      March 18, 2013 at 4:58 pm |
    • Ahhh-sooooo

      @voodoo that's what the benign 'iReports' is for! Shoulda tweeted a pic to Wolf Blitzer so he could droll on about the shape, countour and consistency.

      March 18, 2013 at 5:12 pm |
  2. pbernasc

    Yo yo, I dont work at all, but listen to my new flows...

    Wanna be thug and still live at home
    Just got me a brand new obamaphone
    Got 13 brothers and sisters cuz my moms a slllllut
    Never worked a day cuz I dont give a fuk
    Walk around with a gat even though I'm a felon
    I sure do love me some fresh WAWDERMELON!!!

    How yall shizzies like dem flows?
    Holla at a playa sho sho!!

    March 18, 2013 at 4:46 pm |
    • BobPitt

      That is great point from the GOP, I am sure most Backs will flock to the republican party now... keep up the good work...

      March 18, 2013 at 4:54 pm |
    • Ken Margo

      @bobpitt.................."Most Backs" What the heck is that? Diamondbacks? Silver backs?

      March 18, 2013 at 4:57 pm |
    • BobPitt

      Opps!!! my finger got stuck up my nose...

      March 18, 2013 at 4:59 pm |

    That is kinda what I envision all the smug atheists on here look like.

    March 18, 2013 at 4:46 pm |
    • Carl Sagan

      "An atheist has to know a lot more than I know. An atheist is someone who knows there is no god. By some definitions atheism is very stupid."

      March 18, 2013 at 4:47 pm |
    • In Santa we trust

      Fake Carl. I don't know there is no god, I know I've never seen any evidence of a god; if you have some please share. What definitions are you referring to?

      March 18, 2013 at 5:03 pm |
    • Satan's can opener

      Having or showing an excessive pride in oneself or one's achievements.
      self-satisfied – complacent – conceited

      Sounds a lot like the thible thumpers to me.

      March 20, 2013 at 4:09 am |
  4. Sigh

    I'm not part of the Obama is Satan crowd. He's got both his good and bad points. But that picture? Very similar. Just sayin'

    March 18, 2013 at 4:45 pm |
  5. joe american

    “Quit comparing me to Obama” – Lucifer

    March 18, 2013 at 4:45 pm |
    • voodoo

      lucifer,, the ruler of the catholic church

      March 18, 2013 at 4:46 pm |
  6. good reporting has perished

    Hello, we're CNN. Our ratings are a disaster and more people are watching Charles In Charge re runs than our network. We really don't have good reporters so I hope it's ok if we give you this story of Obama looking like satan. Keep in mind that this is an upgrade from what we were going to run with. Initially,we were going to tackle if spongebob square pants is actually an evil racist white man from the south who sends subliminal messages to minorities. Thank you to the 153 viewers who continue to support us.

    March 18, 2013 at 4:44 pm |
  7. gordon

    It is no coincidence that the "devil" looks like Obama. And then for the producers to say that is nonsense. I will not watch a show that is suppose to reflect on the stories of the Holy Bible and have them pull their continued hateful christian political crap. I will not support this show any longer.

    March 18, 2013 at 4:44 pm |
    • mb2010a

      It's not very good anyway so you're not going to be missing much. The guy that played Moses was terrible...

      March 18, 2013 at 4:48 pm |
    • Gary

      Satan looks better if thats what we are talking about?

      March 18, 2013 at 4:56 pm |
  8. bcinwi

    if there really was a satan....Obama would be it

    March 18, 2013 at 4:43 pm |
    • mb2010a

      We ALL know that Satan would undoubtedly be a Republican...

      March 18, 2013 at 4:46 pm |
    • BobPitt

      As a republican you are, I guess is alright to offend anybody that doesn't share your point of view. The GOP just had a big conference to figure out how to attract minorities, do you think you are helping them to attain their goal?

      March 18, 2013 at 4:51 pm |
  9. SadAmerican4America

    It may be "utter nonsense" to the producer, but it quite obviously wasn't "utter nonsense" to 20,000 tweeters. We were shocked at the uncanny, creepy resemblance the second he appeared!!! We all exclaimed, "He looks like Obama!!" Doesn't matter how many Biblical films he played in before Obama, he STILL looks like Obama in this film!!!

    March 18, 2013 at 4:43 pm |
  10. Elisabeth

    IMO, it looks like Obama if he was on "The Walking Dead" on AMC, after Behner bit him and he turned. He was wearing his Sith Lord costume right before Behner attacked

    March 18, 2013 at 4:42 pm |
    • palintwit

      who the heck is Behner?

      March 18, 2013 at 4:48 pm |
  11. Jim

    So f'd up, why do you give this the time of day cnn..

    March 18, 2013 at 4:42 pm |
  12. mb2010a

    G_d hates Republicans, and now you know why...

    March 18, 2013 at 4:42 pm |
  13. dajowi

    The History Channel can portray Satan without issue.

    But if the History Channel portray muhammad there would be hell to pay.

    Pretty damn funny.

    March 18, 2013 at 4:41 pm |
  14. joe american

    They say that people who have spent a lot of time together start to resemble one another.......

    March 18, 2013 at 4:41 pm |
    • mb2010a

      Then why doesn't the Devil look like Boehner, McConnell or Eric Cantor????

      March 18, 2013 at 4:44 pm |
  15. Alias

    Because this is the History Channel, the last episode will probably be about the aliens who came here and confused our ancestors into believing they were gods.

    March 18, 2013 at 4:40 pm |
    • voodoo

      I can see it now.. Two aliens looking down on planet earth. One laughs and nudges the other, and says,, 'do you want to play the god/jesus thing here too.)

      March 18, 2013 at 4:45 pm |
  16. joe american

    I don’t think that it is fair to Satan to be comparing him to such a contemptible creature...

    March 18, 2013 at 4:39 pm |
    • gajfreeman

      Seriously Joe? Your comment is contemptible.

      March 18, 2013 at 4:46 pm |
    • Me

      Hey look another self-righteous, hyperbolic nitwit. Ah yes a "real" American. Awesome, just what we need.

      March 18, 2013 at 4:51 pm |
    • Ahhh-sooooo

      troll derp

      March 18, 2013 at 5:10 pm |
    • Satan's can opener


      A stupid person.
      A mentally handicapped person.

      fool – imbecile – blockhead – dunce – nitwit – dolt

      March 20, 2013 at 4:11 am |
  17. rubberman473

    My wife thought I was crazy, but I told her that I thought the character of Satan looked like Obama. I told her that in the next 24 hours it would be a story.

    March 18, 2013 at 4:37 pm |
  18. LOL

    I guess all dark skinned men do look the same to white people. LOL.

    March 18, 2013 at 4:36 pm |
    • BobPitt

      And Asians, and Hispanics, and Indians, and native Americans and anybody that is not totally white..

      March 18, 2013 at 4:45 pm |
  19. John in AZ

    It is so racist to think that looks like our President. And there is no way to disguise it, because an "evil-looking" dark-complected face makes you think of President Obama. Those of you who think you see the resemblance now that it has been suggested, you're probably o.k., that's just how the mind works...but shame on Beck and his ilk!

    March 18, 2013 at 4:35 pm |
    • BobPitt

      And then they have a conference to figure out why minorities don't like them..!! go figure..!!

      March 18, 2013 at 4:46 pm |
    • ME II

      I guess I'm not seeing how it's racist exactly. Other movies have portrayed black men as the villain without such a comparisons, e.g. Jackson in Lakeview Terrace, Foxx and Jackson in Django,

      March 18, 2013 at 5:12 pm |
    • ME II

      OTOH portraying Lucifer ("Angel of Light"?) as a black man does seem a bit racist.

      March 18, 2013 at 5:14 pm |
  20. joe american

    The character in the picture on the right looks a lot more frightening and evil to me...

    March 18, 2013 at 4:35 pm |
    • Charles

      You're not an American. You are a Republican.

      March 18, 2013 at 4:41 pm |
    • Ahhh-sooooo

      That's because you're a coward.

      March 18, 2013 at 5:07 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.