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. icurheinie

    It would be impossible NOT to notice the resemblance to Obama, particularly during the casting process. "Nonsense", is right.

    March 18, 2013 at 2:51 pm |
  2. Phazon

    Oh if only they would teach this how it should be taught to bad they are telling it more like fairy tales than actual events they leave out the most important thing why God and Jesus did the things they did and how important it is for you to gain the knowledge of the scriptures.

    March 18, 2013 at 2:50 pm |
    • Dippy

      Try using some punctuation so we can understand what you're saying.

      March 18, 2013 at 2:58 pm |
    • sam

      They're telling it that was because most of it is a fairy tale.

      March 18, 2013 at 2:58 pm |
    • Larry Holmes

      I thinks Phazons saidth he likthes eggths.

      March 18, 2013 at 3:04 pm |
  3. 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 2:50 pm |
    • JC

      You seem really angry about the whole thing....satan....is that you?

      March 18, 2013 at 3:01 pm |
  4. cdub2k

    an article about twitter buzz = slow news day.

    March 18, 2013 at 2:48 pm |
  5. heydude

    Moroccan actor. Moroccan. Seems they do share features. And the actor is from where again? Wheres "your momma" from again? hmmmmmmmm

    March 18, 2013 at 2:48 pm |
  6. JC

    It does look like him............who is upset?

    March 18, 2013 at 2:48 pm |
  7. AB

    First non-Pope article in a month and it's satan-obama star wars.

    March 18, 2013 at 2:48 pm |
    • sam


      March 18, 2013 at 2:49 pm |
  8. JoeSchmoe

    So most of the holy actors look Caucasian but the guy they choose to play Satan "happens" to be an Arab who looks like Obama.
    They knew exactly what they were doing.

    March 18, 2013 at 2:48 pm |
    • JC

      this guy looks "Arab"...really?

      March 18, 2013 at 2:49 pm |
  9. Demigod Vadik, CA

    10 to 1 History Channel pulls the series and apologizes for the "coincidence"...

    ...and someone will never work in Hollywood again...

    ...BTW, I tried to watch this Bible series, just for knowledge sake, and it put me to sleep every time...

    ...and I'm a big history and myth guy...just poorly done altogether...

    March 18, 2013 at 2:47 pm |
    • JC

      Its Mark Burnett....doubtful he won't work in Hollywood again....he makes lots of money. Simple as that

      March 18, 2013 at 2:50 pm |

    For the record, only satan himself would declare that "America does not have a debt problem" =)

    March 18, 2013 at 2:47 pm |
    • .


      March 18, 2013 at 2:53 pm |
  11. stan

    Excellent publicity pick but its pure coincidence, right.

    March 18, 2013 at 2:47 pm |
    • JC

      I don't know...satan's greatest feat was convincing the world that he did not exist. Hmmmm

      March 18, 2013 at 3:02 pm |
  12. BeverlyNC

    CNN – are kidding me? In this 6 year period, racial bigotry against President Obama has been beyond disgusting. So many hate and lies have been spread by the Republican Party and their propaganda outlet of FOX it has resurrected racism like I have not seen since I was teenager.
    President Obama has received more threats than any other President and the Secret Service redoubled.
    Now you, CNN, stir up more hateful discourse on a meaningless story having not place on a supposed "news" site. This is not news. It is sensationalism and you should be ashamed of raising the bigotry level yet again.
    How about a story on the extremism, hate, lies, birtherism, destruction of our social structure, rights of women, and even our ability to vote of the Republican Party? That is reality – not garbage stories like this one.

    March 18, 2013 at 2:47 pm |


      March 18, 2013 at 2:48 pm |
    • heydude

      I totally understand your statement. But lets face, this is a liberal media outlet and thats what the liberals do, start sh%t to make a story look fun to read no matter what the facts are :).....then blame someone else.

      March 18, 2013 at 2:53 pm |
    • sam

      @heydude – you forgot to add that conservatives do the same.

      March 18, 2013 at 3:00 pm |
    • Dave in Jax, FL

      Excuse me, BeverlyNC, but it's not the Republican Party that resurrected racism. It never died. And the Democratic Party and organizations like the NAACP share a great deal of that blame. After all, if racism ceased to exist, they would no longer have a rallying cry to move the masses to the polls, not to mention all the money it brings into their political coffers. Truth be told, people who are racist are racist regardless of party affiliation or race. There are racists in every race, including what we've termed 'minorities'.

      March 18, 2013 at 3:03 pm |
  13. jasie

    obama represents the devil to me.

    March 18, 2013 at 2:46 pm |
  14. Susan

    I definitely don't see it, and it looks like way too many people on both sides of the aisle have too much time on their hands.

    March 18, 2013 at 2:45 pm |
  15. Thoth

    When will someone make a movie actually depicting everything in the bible? From the beginning, without selecting the stories that fit their world view, and omitting ones that don't, are contrary to modern understanding, or have been disproved, so that people can see the 'utter nonsense' of it.

    March 18, 2013 at 2:44 pm |
    • sybaris

      Didn't the Council of Nicea do that in paper form?

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

      @sybaris – are you joking? The Nicean Counsel did precisely such – assembled a creed and book based on their world view. They chose what they wanted and not only discarded other scripts, but banned them. Next time you are in church are recite the Nicean (Apostle's) Creed – give thought to how many people were drawn, quartered, and burned in front of their famlies by christians for refusing to recite it.

      March 18, 2013 at 2:54 pm |
  16. mary

    Sadly , the state of humanity is such that people Need their bible crutch to get by .
    The concept of standing on their own 2 feet & taking responsibility for their actions is beyond them .
    It would be interesting to know what the viewer ship ratings were tho ,
    HOW many people still Need that crutch ?


    March 18, 2013 at 2:44 pm |
  17. doughnuts

    I liked the gut they used in "Constantine."

    I thought Elizabeth Hurley made a pretty good Satan in "Bedazzled." ROWR!

    March 18, 2013 at 2:44 pm |
    • Thoth

      yeah but if they cast satan as a 'hot chic' then women would be po'd that satan was portrayed as a woman ;-}

      March 18, 2013 at 2:48 pm |
    • Matt

      You are so right. She could tempt any man...she-devil.

      March 18, 2013 at 2:50 pm |
  18. Patrick Henry


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

      This is reality TV, that is Obama, after dark.

      March 18, 2013 at 2:47 pm |
  19. critical thinking

    Just another example of how art imitates life.

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

      When that life involves superst.itious, paranoid, prejudiced beliefs? Yes.

      March 18, 2013 at 2:47 pm |
  20. Harald

    It's not that this actor looks like Obama, but that for some morons all black men look alike.

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

      That is exactly what I was going to say.

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

      I certainly agree with that. A valid concern might have to do with why the producers cast a black guy as satan while the key "good guy" figures all look like WASPs.

      March 18, 2013 at 2:48 pm |
    • MarkinFL

      Wrong. This actor bears a strong resemblance to Obama even to those that have no difficulty discerning the differences of his race.

      March 18, 2013 at 2:49 pm |
    • Harald

      @MarkinFL: well, some people see the image of the virgin Maria in a cheese sandwich, so I guess imagination is unlimited....lol

      March 18, 2013 at 3:19 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.