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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. goblackhawks

    What's funny is all the hate on the left for Republicans .. even though they are the most open minded people .. LOL
    Here is a fun fact for all you real racist Democrates ... Martin Luther King Jr .. was a REPUBLICAN ...

    March 18, 2013 at 6:50 pm |
    • The real Tom

      So? So was Lincoln. Do you think the Democratic party is the same now as it was then? Do you think the GOP is? Read some history, dear.

      March 18, 2013 at 6:51 pm |
  2. Reality

    Before Jesus and Satan, there was Buddha and Satan. 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 6:48 pm |
    • The real Tom

      Why not change your moniker to Ad Nauseam?

      March 18, 2013 at 6:50 pm |
    • Reality

      Said Jesus and Satan story was simply another myth concocted by Matthew and later copied by Luke. e.g. http://www.faithfutures.org/JDB/jdb139.html

      March 18, 2013 at 6:56 pm |
  3. DUDE1984

    Ten years ago I could watch the history channel and get something meaningful and educational out of it, now its just crap like this. If you want to have a show about aliens, UFOs, Bigfoot or Jesus every now and then in a historical context thats fine but it's called the History channel. Take off the dumb reality trash and all the tons of metaphysical garbage and show me some "History of (Random country) or Civil War or something REAL. I doubt they were trying to take a swing at Obama with this, and it does look like him but I'm finding more trouble that they are showing this crap on the channel to begin with.

    March 18, 2013 at 6:47 pm |
  4. Goranesh

    I just got paid $6784 working off my laptop this month for doing extra easy tasks from this one cool site! Whoever needs extra cash can do it this way, and best of all, to be paid weekly!!! This is so easy to do that even a 10 yr old kid can do it. You wont forgive yourself if you dont check this out! Rich45.C0M__

    March 18, 2013 at 6:46 pm |
  5. Jack

    You people have got to be kidding me, I was Republican and now an Independent. Who thinks up this crap Donald Trump!

    March 18, 2013 at 6:45 pm |
  6. JV

    If the shoe fits....

    March 18, 2013 at 6:44 pm |
  7. Rick

    He he he, if anyone wants to know why this country is in such a mess this is it. When social media and media actually make this a story you know we are in trouble. The collective IQ of the Twitter posters and CNN reporters is around 60. Obviously CNN does not check reporters IQ when they hire. It's an actor, this story is absolute tripe!

    March 18, 2013 at 6:44 pm |
  8. Satanisagod

    yes it does look a bit like Obama. and it was done on purpose to offend people and propaganda for a TV show to promote the TV show and get ratings for advertisers..

    March 18, 2013 at 6:43 pm |
  9. Quest ion

    Who saw Satan?
    Has anyone seen Satan?
    Who claims to have seen Satan?
    If some one saw Satan; should he/she/it come forward?

    March 18, 2013 at 6:42 pm |
    • Quest ion

      Is Satan human?
      Is Satan a man or a woman?

      March 18, 2013 at 6:43 pm |
    • Trvth

      Yes, they should come forward .... so they can receive the psychological evaluation they're in desperate need of!

      March 18, 2013 at 6:44 pm |
  10. Big_D

    We could worry about a likeness or similarity in a dramatic production or we could actually worry about the depleted uranium they could use in a dirty bomb that is spread all over Iraq.

    March 18, 2013 at 6:41 pm |
  11. Satanisagod

    in theology Satan is the god of hell, god of war, god of the underworld, god of punishment. so satan is a god to do God's work.

    March 18, 2013 at 6:40 pm |
  12. devin

    But can he sing like Green and shoot a shotgun?

    March 18, 2013 at 6:38 pm |
  13. ChrisM

    Must be a slow news day. More BS, different day

    March 18, 2013 at 6:38 pm |
  14. producer

    The producer did the resemblance as part of the movie for promotional purposes. Very few producers have ever bother to make movie about the bible because it's controversial and could offend certain people like the resemblance. You don't see too many movies about jesus, allah ur buddhsit because it could be offensive and too risky to of movie or show to make. the producer is doing a taboo with these religuous movies, too much controversy when any movie can make money. look at the movie about mohammend it was on youtube and protesters over a movie.

    March 18, 2013 at 6:37 pm |
  15. Planderson

    Funny how Satan is considered so evil when all of thereally nasty stuff in the Bible is done by God, and that God demands servile obedience and repression, whereas Satan is all about freedom and choice.

    Who chooses to torture you for the rest of eternity? It's not Satan.

    Who slaughtered whole populations throughout the Bible? Not Satan.

    Whose rule was it to execute your rebellious children, and rape victims who do not shout out? Who said rape victims must marry their perpetrator?

    If there is a God, then he is the evil deceiver who made you think that the other guy is the bad one.

    March 18, 2013 at 6:37 pm |
  16. Big_D

    Impossible, everyone knows Cheney is the Devil incarnate.

    March 18, 2013 at 6:36 pm |
  17. saggyroy

    So god created satan in his own image?

    March 18, 2013 at 6:36 pm |
  18. MN

    That is what Obama will look like in 20 years. hahaha......yes, I do think he is the devil at this time, trying to turn the U.S. into a Socialist country!

    March 18, 2013 at 6:35 pm |
    • Trvth

      Socialism is not evil. Just like Communism isn't evil. However the US is already a socialist state & has been for decades. It's just not AS socialist as some other countries right now.

      March 18, 2013 at 6:42 pm |
    • The real Tom

      No, it isn't. You are confusing socialized medicine and other social programs with socialism.

      March 18, 2013 at 6:43 pm |
  19. Goodguy6410

    Spittin' image..!!

    March 18, 2013 at 6:35 pm |
  20. Lilith

    I'm still having a hard time with the fact that this "History channel" show is taken from the Bible rather than historical record.

    March 18, 2013 at 6:34 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.