(JTA) — The director of an anti-Islam film that helped spark attacks on U.S. diplomatic facilities that left the U.S. envoy to Libya dead is not Israeli as he claimed, a consultant to the film said.
The Atlantic blogger Jeffrey Goldberg reported that a Steve Klein, a consultant to the controversial film, “Innocence of Muslims,” and a self-described militant Christian activist in Riverside, Calif., said that the film’s director, Sam Bacile, is not Israeli and that the name is a pseudonym.
Media outlets, including JTA, had reported Bacile’s claim that he was an Israeli American real estate developer.
Goldberg quoted Klein as saying, “I don’t know that much about him. 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.”
Klein also said, “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.”
Meanwhile, a high-ranking Israeli official in Los Angeles told JTA on Wednesday that after numerous inquiries, it appeared that no one in the Hollywood film industry or in the local Israeli community knew of a Sam Bacile.
The Los Angeles Jewish Journal also reported that individuals heavily involved in the Los Angeles real estate community had never heard of anyone named Bacile. There is no California real estate license issued in his name either, according to the Huffington Post.
The U.S. ambassador to Libya, John Christopher Stevens, and three American diplomats were killed Tuesday night at the U.S. Consulate in Benghaz in a rocket attack on their car, the White House confirmed Wednesday morning.
The same evening, in Egypt, protesters climbed over the wall of the U.S. Embassy in Cairo, pulled down an American flag and tried to set it alight.
The attacks followed the online release of an Arabic translation of “Innocence of Muslims,” a two-hour film that attacks the Islamic prophet Muhammad, making him out to be a fraud. Media reports said it was directed by Bacile, who described himself as a California real estate developer.
Klein was called an “extremist” by the Southern Poverty Law Center, which said he is “Secretary and Founder” of Courageous Christians United, a group that protests outside of mosques and abortion clinics.
Media bloggers and columnists are questioning why Bacile would claim that the $5 million film was paid for by “100 Jewish donors,” calling it a setup. Media experts have called the film unprofessional and believe the $5 million figure is highly inflated.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton condemned the attacks on the envoys and the embassy.
“The United States deplores any intentional effort to denigrate the religious beliefs of others. Our commitment to religious tolerance goes back to the very beginning of our nation,” she said in a statement. “But let me be clear: There is never any justification for violent acts of this kind.”