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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. Demigod Vadik, CA

    Obama or not, amazing that in the 21st Century they would still have a white guy play Jesus, Moses, Abraham and Noah, yet the Devil is played by a "colored" guy...

    ...just how evil is this Bible series???

    March 18, 2013 at 2:40 pm |
    • sam

      Touch By An Angel-level evil.

      March 18, 2013 at 2:41 pm |
    • meifumado

      Hey, Christians eat pork when they know Jesus was a Jew and did not.

      Another reason for believers to question what they have been told.

      March 18, 2013 at 2:45 pm |
    • rapierpoint

      yeah, I guess a character with a silver tint to his face would be considered "colored".

      I notice you don't have a problem with Satan being portrayed as male...

      March 18, 2013 at 2:46 pm |
    • Demigod Vadik, CA

      @rapierpoint

      Are you serious...THEY USED A MOROCCO-an ACTOR FOR SATAN, WHILE JESUS WAS PLAYED BY A WHITE GUY...

      ...do you Cons actually read or just take a glance and fill in what you saw from your own ret arded brains???

      March 18, 2013 at 2:53 pm |
  2. John

    It's very religious of the viewers to not see this as JUST COINCIDENCE...

    March 18, 2013 at 2:39 pm |
  3. Science is Fun

    Five-Million-Year-Old Saber-Toothed Cat in Newly Discovered Genus Discovered in Florida

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/03/130314140909.htm

    March 18, 2013 at 2:39 pm |
    • W

      If Satan had a son he would look like Obama.

      March 18, 2013 at 2:43 pm |
    • Chad

      Science IS fun!!!

      Scientific evidence for the God of Israel
      Fossil Record.
      From the late 1800's thru 1972 the notion of "Darwinian gradualism" held the world captive. The notion that purely random mutation preserved in the population by natural selection would produce a gradual change, which over time would create the complexity of life we now observe (phyletic gradualism).
      Then, in 1972 the publication of "Punctuated equilibria: an alternative to phyletic gradualism" by Stephen Gould (atheist) finally forced the scientific world to accept the reality that the fossil record does not show the gradual change over time that Darwin proposed.

      Instead, what the community was forced to acknowledge, is that the fossil record reflects stasis and rapid change.
      This supports the theistic evolutionist claim that God used natural processes to develop life on this earth, as pure chance can never explain the grand paroxysm of necessarily interrelated mutations that are required to occur to accomplish this rapid change.

      Origins of the universe
      For most of scientific history, the universe was thought to have always existed, directly refuting the theistic claim that the universe had a beginning, and a creator.

      Then, a series of discoveries resulted in a complete transformation of thought, we now know that our universe has not always existed, rather it had a beginning, confirming the theistic claim:
      – 1929: Edwin Hubble discovers red shift (the stars and planets are all moving away from each other. The universe is expanding in all directions)
      – 1965: discovery of microwave cosmic background radiation (the echo's of the big bang)
      – 1998, two independent research groups studying distant supernovae were astonished to discover, against all expectations, that the current expansion of the universe is accelerating (Reiss 1998, Perlmutter 1999).
      – 2003: Borde, Guth, and Vilenkin's Past-Finite Universe proves our universe had a beginning

      Fine Tuning of the universe
      In the past 30 or 40 years, scientists have been astonished to find that the initial conditions of our universe were fine-tuned for the existence of building blocks of life. Constants such as gravitational constant have been found, the variation of which to even the smallest degree, would have rendered the universe utterly incapable of supporting life.

      "There is now broad agreement among physicists and cosmologists that the Universe is in several respects ‘fine-tuned' for life". However, he continues, "the conclusion is not so much that the Universe is fine-tuned for life; rather it is fine-tuned for the building blocks and environments that life requires." - Paul Davies

      "The laws of science, as we know them at present, contain many fundamental numbers, like the size of the electric charge of the electron and the ratio of the mas ses of the proton and the electron. ... The remarkable fact is that the values of these numbers seem to have been very finely adjusted to make possible the development of life - Stephen Hawking

      “As we look out into the universe and identify the many accidents of physics and astronomy that have worked together to our benefit, it almost seems as if the universe must in some sense have known that we were coming.” - Professor Freeman J. Dyson of the Insti tute for Advanced Study in Princeton

      Now, neither Davies or Hawking is a believer in God. They both believe in fine tuning, they just posit natural reasons for it.

      March 18, 2013 at 2:49 pm |
    • The real Tom

      Chad, if it were persuasive evidence, then all scientists would agree with you. And Paul. They don't.

      March 18, 2013 at 2:51 pm |
  4. pj

    Maybe Iran is right. Devil = Obamanation

    March 18, 2013 at 2:39 pm |
    • Demigod Vadik, CA

      I knew right wingers here really agree with Iran...

      March 18, 2013 at 2:41 pm |
  5. mary

    This reminds me of the fuss over Star Wars 1 , that the trade federation looked Chinese and Watto sounded to Italian .
    But then again , many bible people don't grasp large social issues so this might be a twist of theirs .

    March 18, 2013 at 2:39 pm |
  6. The Flamingo Kid

    The resemblance to OBAMA is incredibly strong. Anyone who cannot see this is blind.

    March 18, 2013 at 2:36 pm |
    • doughnuts

      And anyone who claims to see a resemblance wants there to be one.

      March 18, 2013 at 2:42 pm |
  7. Science is Fun

    Answering questions about evolution:
    One Gene, Many Mutations: Key That Controls Coat Color in Mice Evolved Nine Times

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/03/130314180303.htm

    March 18, 2013 at 2:36 pm |
  8. Steve

    Looks like Obama from The Walking Dead

    March 18, 2013 at 2:36 pm |
  9. JLS639

    He also looks kind of like my (white) grandfather. He also kind of like a somewhat older version of the south Asian man whose talk I attended a few hours ago. Get a grip. They were not trying to resemble Obama.

    March 18, 2013 at 2:35 pm |
  10. Corey

    Perhaps it's the little o that looks like Satan?

    March 18, 2013 at 2:35 pm |
  11. Lollippoop

    He looks identical to Obama.

    March 18, 2013 at 2:35 pm |
  12. jc

    I watched it last night and saw no resemblence. Other than being a non-white, non-blue eyed, non-European actor. People who see a similarity a REALLY reaching IMO.

    March 18, 2013 at 2:35 pm |
    • jc

      Also, my family and I both commented on all the actors with blue eyes and brilliantly white, almost glowingly white, teeth. The young David slaying Goliath in particular was distractingly bad.

      March 18, 2013 at 2:38 pm |
  13. The Dude

    White Jesus, Black (human-looking) Devil. Everyone speaking British. How far we've come. *shakes head*

    March 18, 2013 at 2:34 pm |
    • Rf

      British? Its called English. haha

      March 18, 2013 at 2:49 pm |
  14. carl

    ANOTHER CASE OF ART IMITATING LIFE......

    March 18, 2013 at 2:34 pm |
  15. Belseth

    So the people behind the History Channel are a bunch of bigots. They may have thought it was a funny joke but I'm not laughing. Would they have done this to Regan? Yeah I doubt it. President Obama is black so a black guy getting elected President must be Satan to them! So who owns The History Channel, the KKK?

    March 18, 2013 at 2:34 pm |
    • Matt

      Your trolling skills are strong.

      March 18, 2013 at 2:41 pm |
    • rapierpoint

      Maybe it's a case that, to some people, all black people look alike?

      March 18, 2013 at 2:43 pm |
    • dazzy

      Your insight into things that were never even hinted at is truly astonishing.

      Probably more to the point that the bible talks about the antichrist bringing down the most powerful of societies, much like Obama is doing.

      March 18, 2013 at 2:43 pm |
    • sam

      dazzy, is your tinfoil hat big enough for others to get under too?

      March 18, 2013 at 2:46 pm |
    • Rf

      Your worse than the people who were outraged over Samson being black. Who cares what color what color their skin is. Content! Content! 🙂

      March 18, 2013 at 2:53 pm |
  16. Paul

    I heard Donald Trump wants to see Jesus birth certificate.

    March 18, 2013 at 2:33 pm |
  17. bird_4_3

    I do not think he looks like Obama, but he acts like him.

    March 18, 2013 at 2:33 pm |
    • The real Tom

      Oh? Satan acts like Obama?

      Idiot.

      March 18, 2013 at 2:36 pm |
    • Rf

      HAHA, that was classic.

      March 18, 2013 at 2:55 pm |
  18. 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 2:33 pm |
    • rapierpoint

      Over 40,000 denominations of insanity – you might want to do some research prior to posting quotes. A quick check on the Jefferson quote "Millions of innocent..." shows that several different original sources and dates are cited for this. That's a pretty good indicator that something isn't right.

      March 18, 2013 at 2:58 pm |
  19. benji

    He looks like Obama. My 10 year old even noticed it.

    March 18, 2013 at 2:33 pm |
  20. bill

    Please, satan looks nothing like Obama. If the producers were really trying to get someone who looks like satan, they would have gotten rush limbaugh or sarah palin.

    March 18, 2013 at 2:32 pm |
    • jj

      LOL

      March 18, 2013 at 2:37 pm |
    • meifumado

      The fact that Satan is an imaginary figure and that no one could know what he looks like seems to not bother anyone here.

      March 18, 2013 at 2:42 pm |
    • Rf

      No wait, if they really wanted Satan they should've got Satan himself you know George Soros.

      March 18, 2013 at 3:00 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.