Update (below): Film's consultant confirms "Sam Bacile" is not real, Associated Press confirms filmmaker identity with U.S. law enforcement
A man who claimed he's the creator of an anti-Muslim film that's sparked violent protests in Libya and Egypt may not be who he says he is.
The mysterious "Sam Bacile" supposedly spoke to The Associated Press, The Wall Street Journal and The Times of Israel, claiming to be a California real estate developer and an Israeli Jew who raised $5 million for the film from 100 other nameless Jewish donors.
However, since those stories were published, several cracks in that description have emerged, and now reporters are wondering whether he even exists at all.
The WSJ reported that he's 52, but the AP placed his age at 56. Raw Story's own inquiries could not find a "Sam Bacile" linked to any California court filing, which would be highly unusual for a real estate developer. He's also missing from U.S. genealogy databases and the major social media networks.
And yet another wrinkle: Speaking on condition of anonymity, Israeli officials told the AP that they have no record of anyone by that name. "If that is true, and 'Bacile' was claiming to be Jewish and to have raised money from Jews for the film, it only multiplies the incendiary nature of his project," Religion Dispatches senior editor Sarah Posner pointed out.
Foreign policy reporter Laura Rozen also noted that Steve Klein, cited by the AP as a consultant on the film, said in 2007 that he had ties to the Coptic Christian community in Egypt, an often persecuted minority group. "And there were some hints that Bacile may be a pseudonym, possibly for someone affiliated with the Egyptian Coptic diaspora," she wrote.
He also published a book called "Is Islam Compatible with Democracy?" which claims that mosques on U.S. soil are "the head quarters of terrorism." Interestingly, the film, "Innocence of Muslims," depicts the Prophet Muhammad as a gay man who approves of sexually abusing children, and shows his followers rioting and murdering Coptic Christians.
Speaking to The Daily Mail, Klein said he did not feel responsible for the violent protests that erupted in Egypt and Libya, resulting in the deaths of four Americans, including Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens.
"I feel bad for the death of the ambassador - he didn’t do anything to anybody - but it’s not our fault," he reportedly said. "We didn’t want anybody to get killed but on the other hand the truth had to come out. We told the truth and these people reacted the way that Mohammed wanted to them to react - by killing people. Do I feel guilt? Yes, but not for me, I feel it for those that did this. Do I feel shame? Yes, but not for me. Killing this man fits in with their legal and ethical standpoint."
Update: Film's consultant confirms "Sam Bacile" is not real
Speaking to The Atlantic, in a story published later Wednesday afternoon, Klein admitted that "Sam Bacile" is not real, claiming he doesn't know the man's real name.
"I don't know that much about him," he reportedly said. "I met him, I spoke to him for an hour. He's not Israeli, no. I can tell you this for sure, the State of Israel is not involved, Terry Jones is not involved. His name is a pseudonym. All these Middle Eastern folks I work with have pseudonyms. I doubt he's Jewish. I would suspect this is a disinformation campaign."
The Associated Press has interviewed Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, 55, who admitted to managing the company that created the movie. Nakoula denied that he posed as "Sam Bacile" and insisted the mystery filmmaker was an acquaintance of his. Nakoula is a Coptic Christian, who lives near Los Angeles, and has been convicted of financial crimes. Federal court documents showed he had numerous pseudonyms.
The cast and crew of the film also alleged that they had been duped by the filmmaker and were mislead about the true nature of the controversial film.
"The entire cast and crew are extremely upset and feel taken advantage of by the producer. We are 100% not behind this film and were grossly misled about its intent and purpose," 80 cast and crew members said in a statement to CNN. "We are shocked by the drastic re-writes of the script and lies that were told to all involved. We are deeply saddened by the tragedies that have occurred."
"It was going to be a film based on how things were 2,000 years ago," actor Cindy Lee Garcia told Gawker. "It wasn't based on anything to do with religion, it was just on how things were run in Egypt. There wasn't anything about Muhammed or Muslims or anything."
Update: U.S. law enforcement confirmed to the Associated Press that the filmmaker is, in fact, Nakoula Basseley Nakoula.
Photo: An actor in "Innocence of Muslims." Screenshot via YouTube.