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. ibsurfing

    Who cares? Game of Thrones put GW's head on a spike, Obama as Satan? What's the problem? The Left piddling a bit in it's collective pants? Get over yourselves.

    March 18, 2013 at 6:04 pm |
  2. Pumpkin carving by Doris


    (you can easily make it into Jesus by tilting the 'X' upward into a cross – otherwise it's the same)

    March 18, 2013 at 6:04 pm |
    • End Religion

      nice tips, thx! very useful!

      March 18, 2013 at 6:09 pm |
  3. Ryan

    obama is not black... his mother was white and his father was black... that makes him a "mixed half-breed"... maybe someday everyone will figure that out...

    March 18, 2013 at 6:03 pm |
    • sam

      The right wing nutjobs and the southerners find him to be quite black.

      March 18, 2013 at 6:35 pm |
  4. T

    .............Not Obama..............................PALIN................................

    March 18, 2013 at 6:03 pm |
  5. Science

    Hey FREDIE something funky going on here ?

    March 18, 2013 at 6:02 pm |
  6. 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 6:01 pm |
  7. sally

    CNN has made this a top story. I find it inflammatory and an obvious ploy to create a stir, foment controversy, and raise ratings.

    March 18, 2013 at 6:01 pm |
    • bannister

      Actually, I think he DOES look like Obama!

      March 18, 2013 at 6:08 pm |
  8. ezekiel

    GTFOH! any reason to continuously hate the man. u devils are all rotten to the core.

    March 18, 2013 at 6:00 pm |
  9. California Conservative

    Hollywood doing this on purpose?

    Hollywood can't get anymore liberal people.

    March 18, 2013 at 6:00 pm |
    • I Am God

      Another troll that has less education then the previous ones. It just seems to get worst and worst on this blog with uneducated fools such as yourself.

      March 18, 2013 at 6:01 pm |
    • worst and worst


      March 18, 2013 at 6:04 pm |
  10. Al

    Now 20,000 twits and blashphemers get to meet him in person.

    March 18, 2013 at 5:59 pm |
  11. CD

    If it looks lie a duck

    March 18, 2013 at 5:59 pm |
  12. Al

    20,000 twits and blasphemers get to meet him in person.

    March 18, 2013 at 5:57 pm |
    • Whaaaa???

      'splain thyself

      March 18, 2013 at 5:59 pm |
    • free man

      any follower of any religion is a blasphemer. Denegrating God the way they do, forcing the worst of all human traits onto God – jealousy, revenge, hatred, anger, extreme fear of abandonment, insecurity to the point of needing constant grovelling at his feet to show he is loved, Sounds like the workings of a really bad marraige to me.

      March 18, 2013 at 6:20 pm |
  13. Be Heeled from Satan!!!

    . .. .

    March 18, 2013 at 5:57 pm |
  14. NukeTim

    Probably done on purpose.

    March 18, 2013 at 5:56 pm |
    • james

      anybody playin satan will resemble obama cuz obama is. dude playin satan actually looks nuthn like bama. god or sumthin alters films so u know whom satan is.

      March 18, 2013 at 6:03 pm |
  15. Mother

    Big news! Obama is not black , he's half black and half white. Everyone who voted for him playing the "race card" was misled. I did not vote this past elections, I'm sorry. I'm sick and tired of crooks, liars, demagogues, opportunits and bureaucrats having a say in what's good for the country. But I can tell you that right now, we are not doing well. I make less money than before and I have to pay for my own health insurance. Then again, I can go on welfare and have the government take care of things like million of other people who decide not to work do. I have too much self respect for that. So I'll keep on living and doing my best.

    March 18, 2013 at 5:56 pm |
    • snowboarder

      you only have to be something like 1/8 indian to claim native american status. he probably has the minimum requirements to self identiry as black.

      March 18, 2013 at 6:03 pm |
  16. California Conservative

    He also looks like a sith lord.

    March 18, 2013 at 5:56 pm |
  17. brian in denver

    More proof that religion is intellectual suicide.

    March 18, 2013 at 5:55 pm |
  18. james

    Anyone playing satan will resemble obama. cuz bama is lucifers current form.

    March 18, 2013 at 5:54 pm |
    • bob

      I respect Satan more.

      March 18, 2013 at 6:00 pm |
  19. AB

    The fundamental problem with racist quietism is the idea of black and white, no shades of grey. No room for complexity. Just fat or empty. That is why it is optimal for racists to kill themselves. That is their essence. That is where they have arrived intellectually and I say good riddance.

    March 18, 2013 at 5:52 pm |
    • AB

      Sorry to repost. There was a mistake in the first one and I am an existentialist perfectionist.

      March 18, 2013 at 5:56 pm |
    • Science

      something funky going on AB ask FREDIE

      March 18, 2013 at 6:04 pm |
  20. Kent

    This nonsense should not make the front page of CNN. Dan Merica, CNN, should know better.

    March 18, 2013 at 5:51 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.