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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. Ken

    devil and prez both evil and equal amount of suck.

    March 18, 2013 at 6:34 pm |
  2. Ron

    When it comes to reinacting myths, it is really easy to put your own persona on a character

    March 18, 2013 at 6:33 pm |
  3. MaryM

    What a bunch of BS. Who writes this crap

    March 18, 2013 at 6:32 pm |
  4. satancomesinpeace

    There is no such thing as Satan. Satan in theology is god of hell, god of punishment. this is show for 'entertainment' and is offending the real Satan.

    March 18, 2013 at 6:32 pm |
  5. California Conservative

    Ignorance is a liberals best friend.

    March 18, 2013 at 6:32 pm |
    • I Am God

      Still trying to pick fights foolish one?

      March 18, 2013 at 6:33 pm |
  6. Feekoningin

    Well, you know, all people of color look alike ... And Americans wonder why people of color continue to feel marginalized, There is nothing that says Satan was Black or Middle Eastern. He can just as well be white - and in fact, I'm pretty sure he was one of the jerks who tweeted one of these very un-Christian comments.

    March 18, 2013 at 6:31 pm |
  7. pjoe

    There is a family resemblance ... hmmmm. I thought his father was from Kenya.

    March 18, 2013 at 6:31 pm |
  8. Mookee

    how about Piers Morgan? what does he think,.. If I have an opinion he will tell me what it is

    March 18, 2013 at 6:30 pm |
  9. Mookee

    What does Anderson Cooper think

    March 18, 2013 at 6:29 pm |
  10. Mookee

    I think its funny that its even a news item... really

    March 18, 2013 at 6:29 pm |
  11. pat thompson

    He looks a lot like Obama!!!!!

    March 18, 2013 at 6:29 pm |
    • Walla Walla

      And you sound exactly like a racist hate-filled dumb-fuck!

      I mean that in the nicest possible way, of course.

      March 18, 2013 at 6:31 pm |
  12. AB

    What the fuck FREDIE??

    March 18, 2013 at 6:28 pm |
  13. Observation

    Feel sorry for the actor who played the role of Satan, definitely not a glamorous role to play.

    March 18, 2013 at 6:28 pm |
  14. Mookee

    KNow what? if you think Obama is the devil you put it there, if you see a zombie, you put it there. seems to me that if I had the devil look like rush limbaugh or mccain, there would be SILENCE. Just sayin,... of course I realize there is no sense of humor when its not convenient

    March 18, 2013 at 6:27 pm |
    • Debbie

      well put

      March 18, 2013 at 6:33 pm |
  15. Natch

    Really? The fact that he has dark skin, and African features makes him look like Obama?? Can you say "stretch"??

    March 18, 2013 at 6:27 pm |
  16. Secretariat

    Looks like he was ridden hard and put away wet!

    March 18, 2013 at 6:27 pm |
  17. rudy espinoza

    I great disjustice to call it as such. I think Obamalooks more like you know who, than otherwise.

    March 18, 2013 at 6:26 pm |
    • Webster

      Disjustice? Well, at least you weren't the one who called atheists "glutens" for evil.

      March 18, 2013 at 6:29 pm |
  18. Yolanda

    Considering how God behaves in the bible, and what Jesus intends to do to everyone who doesn't suck up to him, I can only conclude that Jesus IS Satan.

    March 18, 2013 at 6:26 pm |
  19. Lets get real

    He looks like a bad Redo of Spocks father from star trek to me. why does everything have to be about Obama anyhow.

    March 18, 2013 at 6:23 pm |
    • Arnie

      If you don't have policies or a platform, then villification and scapegoating are the next best thing.

      March 18, 2013 at 6:27 pm |
    • .

      Which is why Romney lost, Arnie.

      March 18, 2013 at 6:30 pm |
  20. Timus

    I guess if you are gonna have a bunch of white people playing middle eastern people then it wouldn't be a big stretch!!

    March 18, 2013 at 6:23 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.