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. The Bible is Not the Word of God


    March 19, 2013 at 12:02 pm |
  2. robCM

    Satan looks like 'Old White Men'.

    March 19, 2013 at 12:00 pm |
  3. Why Don't Scientists Fear Hell?


    March 19, 2013 at 11:55 am |
  4. "I Believe in the word of God"

    "You were in Eden, the garden of God; every precious stone was your covering, carnelian, topaz, and jasper, chrysolite, beryl, and onyx, sapphire, carbuncle, and emerald; and wrought in gold were your settings and your engravings. On the day that you were created they were prepared. With an anointed guardian cherub I placed you; you were on the holy mountain of God; in the midst of the stones of fire you walked. You were blameless in your ways from the day you were created, till iniquity was found in you. In the abundance of your trade you were filled with violence, and you sinned; so I cast you as a profane thing from the mountain of God, and the guardian cherub drove you out from the midst of the stones of fire. Your heart was proud because of your beauty; you corrupted your wisdom for the sake of your splendor. I cast you to the ground" (Ezekiel 28:13-17 RSV)
    It would be quite natural to assume that a spirit being so grossly evil would also look evil. The popular perceptions of Satan are usually either that of a sinister-looking individual in all-black clothing, or a comic character in a red suit with horns and a pitchfork, but The Bible, as in the above Scriptures, describe Satan with "beauty" and "splendor." Satan appears righteous:

    There is much written in the Bible about Satan's change of behavior, but nothing about any change in appearance. He is the ultimate evil, and yet he appears attractive and righteous. The references to him as a "snake" or "serpent" refer more to his sneaking, slithering, underhanded personality than his actual visual appearance.

    Along with the fact that the rugged and ordinary-looking Jesus Christ (Isaiah 53:2-5) looked almost nothing like the pale "pretty boy" who is so often portrayed in Christian art, one of the most startling questions of recent times involves just who it is that's actually portrayed in those images. What very powerful deceiver, and, as the Bible describes him, impersonator, could have easily influenced all of those various artists, over the many centuries, to depict someone who's consistently the same in un-Christ-like appearance? 🙁

    March 19, 2013 at 11:54 am |
  5. Did Jesus rise from the dead?


    March 19, 2013 at 11:53 am |
  6. matt

    Oh boy. Here come CNN's anti-Christian bigots.

    They just can't help themselves.

    March 19, 2013 at 11:51 am |
  7. 'Why Evolution Is True' Jerry Coyne, Richard Dawkins, AAI 2009


    March 19, 2013 at 11:50 am |
  8. Mass Debater

    Are we allowed to test God? Elijah didn't have a problem with it apparently...

    20 So Ahab sent word throughout all Israel and assembled the prophets on Mount Carmel. 21 Elijah went before the people and said, “How long will you waver between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him.” But the people said nothing. 22 Then Elijah said to them, “I am the only one of the Lord’s prophets left, but Baal has four hundred and fifty prophets. 23 Get two bulls for us. Let Baal’s prophets choose one for themselves, and let them cut it into pieces and put it on the wood but not set fire to it. I will prepare the other bull and put it on the wood but not set fire to it. 24 Then you call on the name of your god, and I will call on the name of the Lord. The god who answers by fire—he is God.”

    Then all the people said, “What you say is good.”

    25 Elijah said to the prophets of Baal, “Choose one of the bulls and prepare it first, since there are so many of you. Call on the name of your god, but do not light the fire.” 26 So they took the bull given them and prepared it. Then they called on the name of Baal from morning till noon. “Baal, answer us!” they shouted. But there was no response; no one answered. And they danced around the altar they had made. 27 At noon Elijah began to taunt them. “Shout louder!” he said. “Surely he is a god! Perhaps he is deep in thought, or busy, or traveling. Maybe he is sleeping and must be awakened.” 28 So they shouted louder and slashed themselves with swords and spears, as was their custom, until their blood flowed. 29 Midday passed, and they continued their frantic prophesying until the time for the evening sacrifice. But there was no response, no one answered, no one paid attention. 30 Then Elijah said to all the people, “Come here to me.” They came to him, and he repaired the altar of the Lord, which had been torn down. 31 Elijah took twelve stones, one for each of the tribes descended from Jacob, to whom the word of the Lord had come, saying, “Your name shall be Israel.” 32 With the stones he built an altar in the name of the Lord, and he dug a trench around it large enough to hold two seahs of seed. 33 He arranged the wood, cut the bull into pieces and laid it on the wood. Then he said to them, “Fill four large jars with water and pour it on the offering and on the wood.” 34 “Do it again,” he said, and they did it again. “Do it a third time,” he ordered, and they did it the third time. 35 The water ran down around the altar and even filled the trench. 36 At the time of sacrifice, the prophet Elijah stepped forward and prayed: “Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let it be known today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant and have done all these things at your command. 37 Answer me, Lord, answer me, so these people will know that you, Lord, are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again.” 38 Then the fire of the Lord fell and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones and the soil, and also licked up the water in the trench. 39 When all the people saw this, they fell prostrate and cried, “The Lord—he is God! The Lord—he is God!” 40 Then Elijah commanded them, “Seize the prophets of Baal. Don’t let anyone get away!” They seized them, and Elijah had them brought down to the Kishon Valley and slaughtered there." 1 Kings 18:20-40

    Why exactly did it work then but not today? Was God more concerned with proving himself to a relatively small tribe? Or was Elijah playing to the crowd and that wasn't really water that soaked the logs? We'll never know but one thing is for sure, the bible presents Elijah as a prophet of the true God and he was allowed to test God, but now we are told testing God is wrong, but I believe that's only because except for Elijah, he's never answered another request.

    March 19, 2013 at 11:49 am |
    • WW


      March 19, 2013 at 11:51 am |
  9. cnnife

    And the bible that Glen claims to advocate commands him to have honor for those in superior authority. Glen, is this the way to honor your president?

    March 19, 2013 at 11:49 am |
  10. "A Universe From Nothing" - Lawrence Krauss, Richard Dawkins


    March 19, 2013 at 11:48 am |
  11. Try Logic Instead

    "He told me there was no God and all men have morals and their own laws. So I began to think and watch how rude he was to people and how unhappy he was but I said if there is no God then I really don't have to worry and started to do the things to him that he was doing to others, but he said it wasn't right. I said who got to decide that?"

    I'm sorry but you have to admit, this idiot is pretty funny. I don't think they intended it but I love where they say all men "have their own laws" then almost immediately says the supposed atheist is "doing things" to others as if they already forgot that the atheist just told them they were still bound by "morals" and "laws".

    Maybe if we speak to them like three year olds they will understand. Here we go.

    Here are some basic laws that people decided upon to make their lives better:

    Do not murder.
    Do not steal.
    Do not r a p e.

    Why should all humans follow those laws? Is it because if they don't they will have some intangible soul sent to a place of eternal torment? Is it for the reward of an eternity in bliss?

    If either of those are why you obey those laws, then you are a terrible person who doesn't deserve the live they have been given, because if the only reason you are not a murdering, thieving r a p i s t is because you have been bribed or scared into obedience, then you are not worth the kb it takes to store these letters on CNN's server.

    I choose to obey those laws because I love my fellow man as I love myself which is a simple principle to live by that outdates the bible by nearly 800 years as it was included in the code of Hammurabi. Yes, there were exceptions they made at the time to allow them to abuse their slaves and people they didn't like, but the principle was there long before Abraham or Moses or Jesus were ever a sparkle in their parents eyes.

    The bible did not invent morality, humans did. All the bible did was take those good principles and couple them with a bunch of other laws which gave them loopholes on how and when they didn't have to follow those principles.

    again and again

    Is it nasty to tell a Big Foot aficionado that you don't believe them and don't think Big Foot is real? Is it nasty to infer something about the intelligence of one who believes in Big Foot? Would saying anything like that reveal anything about yourself other than the fact that it takes more than some 1970's footage of a large hairy creature to make you a believer?

    Sadly, there is far more evidence for Big Foot than for a divine superbeing Christ returning to save (some of) mankind.

    I have no idea why anyone would think my posts are so powerful and moving to have to try to delete them over and over. There's nothing even remotely offensive in these posts, though i will admit I have posted some that might not pass a clean filter...

    I wonder if the person trying to play thought police knows all they are doing is getting my and others posts re-posted so they constantly stay in the recently posted and tend to get viewed more than a post that was simply forgotten. Silly Wabbit...

    I guess they do know and just really really like my stuff....

    March 19, 2013 at 11:46 am |
  12. David Fitzgerald Skepticon 3 "Examining the Existence of a Historical Jesus


    March 19, 2013 at 11:44 am |
  13. Call me Bwana

    Yes! I have seen the number of the beast on his forehead! The end days are upon us. Fathers will kill their sons. Dogs will consort with cats. Oh, the Humanity!

    March 19, 2013 at 11:43 am |
    • Akira

      Was it a UPC code?

      March 19, 2013 at 11:46 am |
  14. Science Assistant

    Still waiting on this question too Bethany/CHAD do you have ONE ? Do you have one TBT ?

    Human Y Chromosome Much Older Than Previously Thought


    Was bible around back then ???

    March 19, 2013 at 11:42 am |
  15. Playing God: The Loving Psychopath


    March 19, 2013 at 11:40 am |
  16. The real Tom


    March 19, 2013 at 11:40 am |
    • cnnife

      I bet Glen will not say a word if a POTUS look-alike plays the role of the messiah.

      March 19, 2013 at 11:46 am |
  17. Welcome To This World


    March 19, 2013 at 11:35 am |
  18. The Problem with Miracles


    March 19, 2013 at 11:33 am |
  19. SMH

    I always knew that a white woman would bring the devil into the world. An he would be raised by white people from Kansas. Just thought I would let all you racist on here talking about black and minority this or that the truth about Obama aka your satan race and upbringing. How does it feel to know a white woman brought satan into the world? An a white family from Kansas raised him to become the Satan he is today. Dam$ where is Dorthy with those red shoes when you need them cause a lot of you are still in OZ! An a couple of you real special bigots and ignorant one's need to remove the house from on top of you. Just click the heel of your shoe 3 times and repeat after me there is no place like home.

    March 19, 2013 at 11:33 am |
  20. peterz

    I thought this article was telling us bible was used.

    March 19, 2013 at 11:31 am |
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About this blog

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.