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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. boof

    i think it is a total coincidence, but you can't tell me he doesnt look like obama! its hilarious.

    March 18, 2013 at 7:46 pm |
  2. rontx78

    Actually, the actor, Mohamen Mehdi Ouazanni, looks nothing like the satan character (except for the mole on the chin) or President Obama. But, with makeup, they made satan resemble Obama. I showed photos to my 11 year old of the real Mohamen Mehdi Ouazanni and the satan character, and she saw no resemblance. But, when I asked her who satan looked like, she immediately responded, "Obama." You have to wonder whether Mr. Burnett and Mr. Downey were making a less than subtle comment about their own personal feelings.

    March 18, 2013 at 7:42 pm |
    • .

      You might want to teach your child respect for the office...it's President Obama. And it's Ms. Downey. You were respectful enough to give them their titles, why not the POTUS? And if you read the article, they are both supporters of the POTUS.

      March 18, 2013 at 7:52 pm |
  3. josh rogen

    to some people ALL people of color look alike, guess most of them are liberal democrats

    March 18, 2013 at 7:40 pm |
    • Akira

      How wee todd id.

      March 18, 2013 at 7:45 pm |
    • TPL

      What?!?! All people of color are not liberal Democrats! And what about color? My face turns a bit reddish when I've been in the sun too long. And then there are those suffering from jaundice...what do you have against those folks? What an outrage! Do you truly believe that if a person tans or burns that they change their political leanings? Wait...did I misunderstand what you were really saying?

      March 18, 2013 at 7:47 pm |
  4. sharky

    Ya mean the same kind of resemblance Game of Thrones DID do of actually using Bush's severed head as a prop on a spear end? Even the producers of the show acknowledged it happened. That was a severed head. Heck there was even a mockumentary made of the assassination of Bush and this looks like Obama?????? LOL man oh man.

    March 18, 2013 at 7:39 pm |
  5. loudmusic

    Obama? I'm thinking he looks more like what Anthony Bourdain woulda looked like if he was doing heroin for the last 45 years.

    March 18, 2013 at 7:39 pm |
  6. Porchia

    Those comparison photos made me ROFLMAO!!!!

    March 18, 2013 at 7:38 pm |
  7. 453Namestried

    I think the more important question is, "Why is the History channel continuing to give air time for fictional stories?" Isn't there enough real history to make shows about?

    March 18, 2013 at 7:37 pm |
    • sup

      Hey Let them do their job. Plus it has a good rating so mind your own business. If you don' like it, don't watch it, or don't comment.

      March 18, 2013 at 7:46 pm |
  8. ppedo

    Reflects badly on Satan!

    March 18, 2013 at 7:35 pm |
    • TPL

      I think they're both good speakers at first listen but get equally annoying as they drone on and on...ugh the voices in my head!!!

      March 18, 2013 at 7:38 pm |
  9. Abominable snowman

    It seems to me that we will see Satan wearing a parka before racism is exorcised from the american soul .... What a lack of imagination!

    March 18, 2013 at 7:34 pm |
  10. ChrisM

    Downey 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.”

    March 18, 2013 at 7:31 pm |
    • sup

      Downey got it wrong by saying "Obama, a fellow christian". Obama lacks the morals and ethics of a christian. Since when a christian can support gay marriage? Or smoke behind the white house? Or lie to the nation?? Obama is not christian, he's a wolf dress as a sheep.

      March 18, 2013 at 7:51 pm |
  11. TPL

    I'm still trying to get over the incredibly inaccurate casting of Jesus...a very white Jesus...really? So much for historical accuracy...which is a stretch anyway for anyone taking the Bible literally. So why not Obama as Satan? Maybe should have cast a Romney lookalike as a beggar.

    March 18, 2013 at 7:30 pm |
  12. John

    This is why I despise gopers and christians.

    March 18, 2013 at 7:28 pm |
    • sharky

      Ok and what did they do this time?????

      March 18, 2013 at 7:35 pm |
    • Name* dani

      Hate only breeds hate.. John. Too much of that going around these days.

      March 18, 2013 at 7:36 pm |
  13. Maestra730

    If it looks like a duck, and walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck . . .

    March 18, 2013 at 7:27 pm |
    • TPL

      Time to start making gravy...?

      March 18, 2013 at 7:41 pm |
    • Akira

      ....it's Maestra730.

      March 18, 2013 at 7:43 pm |
  14. I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

    @Dan Merica,

    thanks for the first non-Pope story in a while.

    And since no good deed goes unpunished you have 1,233 posts (and counting) in a little over five hours.

    That's a lot more than the Pontif stories get, even if you have to stoop down to a storyline involving a combination of:

    Satan / Darth Obama / Mark Burnett / History Channel / Glenn Beck.

    Thanks for the change of pace.

    Perhaps a story on the religiosity of 'Buck Wild' or 'Here Comes Honey Boo Boo' would generate a similar amount of interest.

    March 18, 2013 at 7:25 pm |
    • sam

      A+

      March 18, 2013 at 7:26 pm |
  15. Jim

    Anything to try to smear someone while making Obama look the victim....

    March 18, 2013 at 7:25 pm |
    • sam

      Aw, gwumpypants! Is you upset? Time for nappy-nap? Whozagooboy??

      March 18, 2013 at 7:28 pm |
  16. Kathy in KC

    Unreal. They look NOTHING alike. Unless you're one of those pathetic white folks who think that "all black people look alike to me." Get out. The only similar thing between these two men is their chins. P.S. I'm white.

    March 18, 2013 at 7:22 pm |
    • chad

      so i guess all slightly light skinned black looking dudes are banned from any kind of questionable role from now on?

      March 18, 2013 at 7:35 pm |
  17. Casual Observer

    Who wants to bet that SNL opens the show with an Obama as the devil sketch to open the show next week?

    March 18, 2013 at 7:22 pm |
    • sam

      I'm looking forward more to South Park's take on it.

      March 18, 2013 at 7:23 pm |
  18. Guest

    Looks more like Frank Langella to me.

    March 18, 2013 at 7:22 pm |
    • Akira

      That's who I thought of, also.

      March 18, 2013 at 7:28 pm |
  19. bwv208

    The Producer, Mr. Marc Burnett is well known for his hit shows "Survivor" and the Donald Trump mess. Please notice that all his shows always promote Avarice, Greed, Political back stabbing, and the fight for Power. This new show "The Bible" is no different than the rest. It is his newest pitch to make more money (number 1 reason for the show no matter what he professes), gain more power in the TV and Cable network community and last but not least create much publicity for himself. I strongly believe the selection of an actor for the 'Devil/Satan" role who is African=American and resembles President Obama is a deliberate and obvious racial and political attempt to promote fear in those people who are looking for excuses to rationalize their own bigotry and promote their white supremacist ideologies. Shame on Marc Burnett.

    March 18, 2013 at 7:20 pm |
    • sam

      So how exactly DOES one reconcile being a supposedly good christian while trying to be a greedy media whore?

      March 18, 2013 at 7:23 pm |
    • Akira

      You might have a point if the actor portraying Satan were African-American. He's not.

      March 18, 2013 at 7:24 pm |
    • Interloper

      I agree 100%..There are no accidents

      March 18, 2013 at 10:28 pm |
  20. AnyoneElseSeeThis

    I am more concerned about the half naked lady advertisement that is on this webpage. Is CNN monitring the advertisements that are appearing on this site.

    March 18, 2013 at 7:20 pm |
    • sam

      The ads that appear for you are based on your search history. You have some splainin' to do.

      March 18, 2013 at 7:21 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      I only get ads for Allegra and BP.

      March 18, 2013 at 7:27 pm |
    • Akira

      Sam: LMAO! Thanks!

      March 18, 2013 at 7:38 pm |
    • End Religion

      Why are my ads all for Depends undergarments?!?

      March 18, 2013 at 9:12 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.