The History channel's The Bible miniseries has been a high-profile ratings success, and now Glenn Beck and the conservative media, along with maybe a few actual viewers, are brewing a high-profile controversy because, well, the actor who played the devil on Sunday night's episode maybe kind of sort of looks like the President of the United States. (Update: Producers Mark Burnett and Roma Downey call the connection "utter nonsense." See below for more statements from the people behind The Bible.)
Yes, Beck kind of started this whole thing:
He was not alone, though, as many viewers—likely of conservative bent—decided to imply that the casting and the makeup was not a coincidence:
And, of course, all of that was prime Drudge bait:
Devil in TV show's 'The Bible' bears striking resemblance to Obama! drudge.tw/16E9BzP— DRUDGE REPORT (@DRUDGE_REPORT) March 18, 2013
So was it actually a coincidence? It's hard to tell based on what we know about the the politics of the producers, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Jordan Zakarin of THR reports that producers Mark Burnett and his wife Roma Downey aren't exactly public about party preferences. Burnett has donated to Obama in the past, even though he's produced the reality efforts of high-profile Republicans Donald Trump and Sarah Palin. In promoting The Bible, he and Downey have appeared on Beck's TheBlaze TV, and appealed to conservative pastors Joel Osteen and Rick Warren. Meanwhile, The Bible has in itself helped History raise its profile among conservatives and Christians.
We'll see if Burnett or History make a statement on the debatable coincidence—we've reached out to the network for comment—but a fresh controversy can't be bad for ratings.
Update: The network, Burnett and Downey have issued statements. The network said:
HISTORY channel has the highest respect for President Obama. The series was produced with an international and diverse cast of respected actors. It's unfortunate that anyone made this false connection. HISTORY’s ‘The Bible’ is meant to enlighten people on its rich stories and deep history.
As executive producers Burnett and Downey said:
This is utter nonsense. The actor who played Satan, Mehdi Ouzaani, 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.
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.
Update 2: For what it's worth, Glenn Beck has also tweeted his opinion on the controversy:
Media – relax. Actor has been in similar roles b4. Funny, nothing more. For different reasons, #TheBible is 1 of my fav shows. Keep watching— Glenn Beck (@glennbeck) March 18, 2013