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March 18th, 2013
01:59 PM ET

Producer: Claim of Obama-Satan likeness nonsense

By Dan Merica, CNN
[twitter-follow screen_name='DanMericaCNN']

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. atheists are so kewl

    Atheists are so kewl. We like don't believe in God and stuff. We're just like so super smeert and kewl. We're like total rebels. Like oh my God, we're just too cool for school. I'm totally going to go get a mocha right now.

    March 18, 2013 at 4:51 pm |
    • what kind of atheist are you?

      There are as many atheist denominations as there are christian denominations:

      libertarian atheists, Marxist atheists, scientific determinist atheists, existentialist atheists, humanist atheists, Nietzschean atheists, etc., etc.

      March 18, 2013 at 4:53 pm |
    • what kind of atheist are you?

      We Christians might not believe in that kind of god either. In fact, the Romans persecuted Christians on the grounds that they were “atheists”; that is, they did not believe in the gods of the cultural pantheon.

      March 18, 2013 at 4:56 pm |
    • In Santa we trust

      So provide some evidence of a god – convince us with reason and logic.

      March 18, 2013 at 4:56 pm |
    • Tom End Religion Akira Chuckles HawaiiGuest, etc

      We are anti-theist.

      S.uck our tiny female balls.

      March 18, 2013 at 4:58 pm |
    • Tom End Religion Akira Chuckles HawaiiGuest, etc

      @ In Santa we trust

      Quit begging Christians for proof.... you just want to prove you are superior. Get over yourself.

      March 18, 2013 at 4:59 pm |
    • Satan's can opener

      dim·wit
      /ˈdimˌwit/
      Noun
      A stupid or silly person.
      Synonyms
      fool – booby – blockhead – dunderhead – dunce

      March 20, 2013 at 4:13 am |
  2. Ratt

    No, I don't Think Satan looks like Obama, I think Obama looks like Satan.

    March 18, 2013 at 4:50 pm |
  3. pbernasc

    Yo yo, listen to my new flows all you peeps...

    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 4:50 pm |
  4. He knows Evil

    First I thought OBAMA is Urkel.. as in Urkel goes to Washington.

    Then I thought.. oh wow.. OBAMA is actually RuPaul out of drag and Michelle is RuPaul in drag.

    But NOW.. OBAMA IS SATAN!!!!

    Wow love the Obama White House sitcom.. its like watching LOST with all its twists and turns.

    March 18, 2013 at 4:50 pm |
  5. Sly

    I have never had time to read that Big Book, so can someone explain it all to me quickly?

    Is the Devil bad, or is God? And what they one of them do that was bad? And did either of them do anything good?

    I like to make an educated choice, so if I have to choose between 2 deities that I'm not familiar with, I like to get some background. It's just like voting for President or Congress – we elect the person who we think will help our nation the most. (oh by the way, I said 'we elect'. Sometimes I think American forget who is responsible for those in Congress.)

    March 18, 2013 at 4:50 pm |
  6. josh

    Amazing...The GOP think all black people look alike

    March 18, 2013 at 4:49 pm |
    • Dude88

      Yep, that's exactly what we discuss in secret meetings – you caught us. We also plot how to really stick it to the sick and the poor, I mean really, what a drag on society.

      March 18, 2013 at 5:00 pm |
  7. msamorales

    Why does the devil have to be dark skinned?

    March 18, 2013 at 4:49 pm |
    • reality check

      It's a serpent dust on the ground thing. Sorry, still don't see the similarity between the actor and Obama and I'm not an Obama worshiper.

      March 18, 2013 at 4:52 pm |
  8. Pumpkin Carving by Doris

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_h_T3EYCsKI

    You can use the same pattern to make Jesus – just tilt the 'X' a little more upright.

    March 18, 2013 at 4:49 pm |
  9. palintwit

    Obama is Satan. Yep, that sounds about right.

    March 18, 2013 at 4:49 pm |
    • Kelly51

      His right hand man at the very least.

      March 18, 2013 at 4:58 pm |
    • Kelly51

      Although Obama is a lefty. I believe.

      March 18, 2013 at 4:58 pm |
  10. Anomic Office Drone

    I guess I see a resemblance, but only because it's being pointed out.

    Mostly, I just think it's funny that The Bible in on the History Channel. It's like America is constantly like trying to one up its own stupidity.

    March 18, 2013 at 4:49 pm |
  11. OMAR

    Yo yo yo, yo
    I be slinging crack rock from the streets to the roof tops
    WORD!!!!!!!!!!

    March 18, 2013 at 4:49 pm |
  12. Ponchos raincoat

    The devil doesn't exist. Obama looks like Obama and he stinks like Jimmy Carter.

    March 18, 2013 at 4:49 pm |
  13. Kelly51

    Whenever there is an article on Christianity the Atheist's come out of the woodwork to spew their own religion. The persecution of Christianity has been going on forever. Satan is alive and well. Thanks to the Atheist.

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

      Whoa, what part of 'athiest' do you Hari-Krishna types not understand.

      We know there is no little red man with horns holding a pitchfork living 500 miles deep in the core of the earth.

      So ... no ... us athiests do not beleive in your little red man any more than we believe in your fat white man in the clouds.

      Nice try ... NEXT!

      March 18, 2013 at 4:53 pm |
    • Kelly51

      I don't believe there is a little red man 500 miles deep down into the earth. I think he walks right by your side telling you to keep up the good work. You may not believe in much now, but you will, one day.

      March 18, 2013 at 4:56 pm |
    • what kind of atheist are you?

      libertarian atheists, Marxist atheists, scientific determinist atheists, existentialist atheists, humanist atheists, Nietzschean atheists?

      March 18, 2013 at 5:00 pm |
    • Satan's can opener

      Atheists (NOT "atheist's") don't have a religion. That's the whole point, you knuckle-dragging idiot.

      March 20, 2013 at 4:15 am |
  14. Charles

    Who cares. there is no devil. That's if you don't count drug dealers, child molesters and the extream right.

    March 18, 2013 at 4:48 pm |
    • Kelly51

      You are warped!

      March 18, 2013 at 5:39 pm |
  15. mittens

    He looks more like Reagan

    March 18, 2013 at 4:48 pm |
  16. William in Chicago

    Yes, the character looks like Obama. It cannot be a coincidence. How racist to depict Satan as a black man. Perfect stereotype of black men as evil. In fact, Jesus, as a Semitic Jew would have looked more like Obama than he would a white European man. Breathtaking that this type of racist stereotyping is still prevalent in mainstream media. Something I'd expect from Fox and the other rightwing extremist media entertainment complex. Sad and profoundly disappointing.

    March 18, 2013 at 4:48 pm |
    • reality check

      The serpent crawls on the ground eating dust and is dusty. It's a fairy tale and doesn't much matter to me but if you follow the storyline, it fits.

      March 18, 2013 at 4:54 pm |
    • rapierpoint

      Jesus would look more like Obama and a European? And you're saying others are being stereotypical?

      March 18, 2013 at 4:56 pm |
    • dragnet767

      I agree William and don't think that sick message isn't lost on most of us normal white people.

      March 18, 2013 at 4:58 pm |
  17. dragnet767

    Boycott History channel and all Mark Burnett productions. Unless...This is what Glenn crazy wants. Hell just boycott all of them. So what else is Glenny boy going to tell you all about this stupid show ahead of time?? This is what happens when multi-millionairs get stuff ahead of the pee-ons. that pays the History channels bills.

    March 18, 2013 at 4:47 pm |
  18. George Mize

    Sith Lord

    March 18, 2013 at 4:47 pm |
  19. Randy

    Ridiculous! Seems the left and atheist are thin skinned, offended by anything Biblical.

    March 18, 2013 at 4:47 pm |
    • dragnet767

      Yes Randy and the bible is nothing but fairy tails. Just made up stories.

      March 18, 2013 at 4:50 pm |
    • BukkakeJack

      god doesn't exist.

      March 18, 2013 at 4:57 pm |
  20. George Mize

    Sith Lord

    March 18, 2013 at 4:46 pm |
    • dragnet767

      Really George, You have to drag Star Wars in to this? lol.

      March 18, 2013 at 4:52 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.