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March 18th, 2013
01:59 PM ET

Producer: Claim of Obama-Satan likeness nonsense

By Dan Merica, CNN
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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. Shaleea

    Ha! What I find "utter nonsense" is the fact that the history channel even puts the bible on their channel!!!!! IT'S A STORY BOOK! thats like having an entire short series about Twilight! I think the history channel has gotten so messed up with their "reality" shows I think they forgot what REALITY really is!

    March 24, 2013 at 9:00 am |
  2. tepeters

    Yes he does resemble Obama but who cares its just a coincidence people-Satan is not real except for those who want him to be-the self righteous people who think they are going to heaven.

    March 24, 2013 at 7:34 am |
  3. Thaddeus Kellman

    If the shoe fits, wear it!

    March 22, 2013 at 6:32 pm |
    • bander9

      " No Church in the Wild"

      March 23, 2013 at 12:15 am |
  4. kc80503

    Mark Burnett's claim that any resemblence is utter nonsense is itself utter nonsense. A few minor tweaks and they could be twins. It's disgusting the lengths Mark Burnett will go to with his reality TV schlock to attract the absolute lowest common denominator viewer. Nothing like a good controversy to bump the ratings, even if it's blatantly comparing our President to satan, eh Mark? Great angle to bring the racists out of the woodwork...they'll jump at any chance to compare Obama to satan. Add the History Channel to the other (TLC, Discovery, NatGeo, et,) stations that once had quality programming, but have since resorted to tacky reality shows and lame "docu-dramas" in their quest for ratings at any cost. The relentless dumbing down of the American TV viewer.

    March 22, 2013 at 3:22 am |
  5. mskatiesartstudio

    If I were Roma and Mark I would be more worrried about having to answer to a Just and Holy God for the blatant disregard of His Sacred Scriptures before I'd worry about making nice with the president.
    http://ioncewasblindbutnowimsaved.blogspot.com/2013/03/episode-1-beginnings-honest-review.html

    March 21, 2013 at 4:37 pm |
    • Keith

      Right like your "God" is the right one

      March 21, 2013 at 6:43 pm |
    • JH1

      That's like my kid telling me I won't be getting presents from Santa Claus.

      March 24, 2013 at 6:50 am |
  6. Holdthe Profanityfool

    Obama's reign "resembles" a presidency. God uses good kings AND... bad.

    March 21, 2013 at 3:19 pm |
  7. Linda

    How ridiculous. First of all no one knows what "satan" looks like! And no one knows what Jesus looks like. Get real people. The ACTOR looks like Obama.

    March 21, 2013 at 12:18 am |
    • Akira

      No, the actor doesn't. And it is likely you would not see this at all if there was not an article about it.

      March 21, 2013 at 2:45 pm |
    • Keith

      I agree, I could see it without the side by side picture too, but I doubt it was intentional

      March 21, 2013 at 6:48 pm |
  8. CJ

    YES, OBAMA LOOKS LIKE THE ACTOR THAT PLAYS SATAN. WHATS THE BIG DEAL PEOPLE?

    March 20, 2013 at 10:16 pm |
  9. Doobs

    I don't know, it seems like a publicity stunt. I haven't been watching the bible, but Mr. Doobs did while we were waiting for the Vikings to come on. He didn't mention the Obama/Satan look alike.

    Anyway, I don't know how popular this type of show is, but I know who Mark Burnett is. Survivor has been on for thirteen years. He knows how to get and keep interest. What better way to create interest from the audience that normally wouldn't watch a bible show. He supported Obama, so you can't really say he's targeting him for some reason. It could be called racist.

    I'll bet a lot more people tune in just to see whether the actor does look like the president. Maybe some will watch the rest of it. If it's a publicity stunt, I think it's a great one.

    March 20, 2013 at 4:54 pm |
  10. No Gods No Master

    I'm certain that the ones making those statements are either Tea Party Members, Rush Limbaugh fans, Sean Hannity fans and Bill O'Reilly fans.

    March 20, 2013 at 4:30 pm |
    • jean

      I think it was Glenn Beck that came up with this idiocy. Figures. Only someone that nuts would think that the man on TV was really satan, not an actor. I thought Beck and his ilk would have been carted off by now.

      March 20, 2013 at 5:05 pm |
  11. Quest ion

    Where is Satan?

    How does Satan looks?

    What is it that Satan does?

    March 20, 2013 at 4:11 pm |
    • bander9

      Satan is a imaginery figure of the religious nuts . I've met so-Christians worst than any one I could call the Devil.

      March 23, 2013 at 12:17 am |
  12. Quest ion

    Who saw Satan?
    Who has seen Satan?
    Can anyone see Satan?

    March 20, 2013 at 3:54 pm |
  13. Bee Anderson

    Like every other countries don't know that America is full of hypocrites and religious nuts. Be 4 Real!!

    March 20, 2013 at 2:39 pm |
  14. Carol G

    NOBOZO – Your grammar is more offensive than your choice of words.

    March 20, 2013 at 2:39 pm |
    • bander9

      offensive, how about kiss my azz?

      March 23, 2013 at 12:22 am |
  15. Bee Anderson

    We all look alike, we all are God's children. Hugo Chevez said that he smelled sulfur after then President Bush had addressed the U.N. LOL, don't take things too serious and don't let anything Glen Beck or his little Demons rattle your cage. Remain kool like Obama and keep your right hand in your pocket while you whistle. It drives them crazy.

    March 20, 2013 at 2:34 pm |
  16. Andrea

    A very old, ugly Obama – shameful.

    March 20, 2013 at 1:29 pm |
    • The real Tom

      AHAHHAHHHHHAHAHHAHAA! And another stupid fvck shows how smart the fundies are. "SATIN"! Ahahahahhahha!

      March 20, 2013 at 1:50 pm |
  17. Shonnie

    Does anyone really care? They just picked an actor - the devil has been played by AL Pachino and several other popular attractive guys ... guess the pres is in good company

    March 20, 2013 at 12:19 pm |
  18. B.

    Will the mindlessness and Racism never end?

    All of this demonstrates to the World that all of our talk about being the moral leader in the World is very transparent and false..

    March 20, 2013 at 11:52 am |
    • The real Tom

      It doesn't "fit," you dim bulb. You would like to pretend it does because you're an ass hole.

      March 20, 2013 at 1:49 pm |
  19. Robert Graham

    Why must satan always look like a person of color?? Period.

    March 20, 2013 at 11:00 am |
    • Shonnie

      Al Pacino?? Dust the chip off your shoulder ... the devil has been portrayed in all colors.

      March 20, 2013 at 12:21 pm |
    • okcthunder

      Why is God in the Bruce and Evan Almighty movies black? Stop being so sensitive. Let's have a white guy like Al Pacino always be Satan then, and no white people will care.

      March 20, 2013 at 1:41 pm |
    • Larry

      The devil has to be some color. Even if they just showed a classic cartoon red devil some people would say it was racist against indians.

      March 20, 2013 at 2:46 pm |
    • Brian

      Do I really have to explain this to you... A small percentage of the world population is "white". Most of the world is of varying color. Even Italians are not "white"... When a movie becomes a global project as this movie was you will most likely have non white characters. This guy has portrayed satan in the past and I am sure did a great job and therefor got the part. Really... maiking it about skin color. In the words of Martin Luther King Jr... "I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character." Really... you make a race comment... Really... Only those not seeing content of character see color of skin by friend... Really...

      March 20, 2013 at 2:59 pm |
    • Keith

      Jack Nickelson played him in the Witches of Eastwick

      March 21, 2013 at 6:52 pm |
  20. Saraswati

    I just asked my partner who hadn't read about this story who the pic looked like and she couldn't come up with anyone. If you've got someone handy try it on them without telling who it should look like.

    March 20, 2013 at 9:35 am |
    • The real Tom

      Hey, Sara, where was the conversation with Paul regarding the issue of absolute and relative morality? I wanted to go back and take a look.

      March 20, 2013 at 10:07 am |
    • Geanette

      Satin is a type of cloth, you inbred hillbilly...hehe.

      March 20, 2013 at 4:31 pm |
    • Saraswati

      Hey Real Tom, I don't see it so I'm guessing it was on the Be Nice story and bethany et al had the top level post moderated.

      March 20, 2013 at 4:39 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.