The producers of History Channel’s The Bible fended off claims Monday that the actor who plays Satan in the miniseries resembles President Barack Obama.
Executive producers Mark Burnett, who created Survivor, and his wife, the actress Roma Downey, described the comparisons as “utter nonsense.”
“Both Mark and I have nothing but respect and love for 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,” according to a statement from Downey, who starred in the television show Touched by an Angel.
Mehdi Ouazaani, the Moroccan actor who portrays Satan, has played satanic roles prior to his work on The Bible, the statement said.
The social media sphere blew up with the comparison Sunday night, which was touted by conservative commentator Glenn Beck, among others.
“Anyone else think the Devil in #TheBible Sunday on History Channel looks exactly like That Guy?” Beck tweeted along with a picture of Ouazanni in costume.
Beck followed up Monday telling the media to relax. He said the similarity was “funny, nothing more.”
The History Channel also sought to dampen the controversy.
“History Channel has the highest respect for President Obama,” in the statement released Monday.
“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,” it continued.
The Bible has raked in huge TV ratings since its beginning. According to Nielsen, 10.9 million people tuned in to watch Sunday, making it the most watched show on TV that night.
The five-part miniseries, which has two installations left, airs Sunday nights at 8 p.m. EST on the History Channel.
Caleb K. Bell writes for Religion News Service.