(NEW YORK) — The filmmaker who produced an incendiary, anti-Muslim movie that stirred extremists on Tuesday to storm the U.S. embassy in Egypt — and may be linked to the fatal attack on the U.S. ambassador in Libya — may have gone into hiding, as doubts rose as to his true identity.
Following Tuesday’s riots, a California man calling himself Sam Bacile took credit for making the film Innocence of the Muslims and identified himself as an Israeli Jew in two news interviews.
But a search of public records and inconsistencies in Bacile’s own accounts, as well as information from a radical Christian who helped produced the movie all suggest that “Sam Bacile” is a pseudonym and is not Israeli but an Arab Christian.
“I’ve met him twice. He is not a citizen of Israel. He is in hiding,” Steve Klein, a member of a far-right anti-Islamic Christian group who says he helped with the film’s production, told ABC News.
Klein said Bacile was not Israeli or Jewish, and suggested he was an Arab Christian who was a U.S. citizen.
Three U.S. Christian groups, including two identified as hate groups by the Southern Poverty Law Council, and a third that advocates for Egyptian Christians, or Copts, have been linked to the production or eventual distribution of the movie.
The controversial Florida Pastor Terry Jones, who in 2010 sparked riots in Afghanistan after burning copies of the Koran, told ABC News that he had been contacted to help distribute the film.
Klein, a member of the Church of Kaweah, listed as an anti-Muslim hate group, said Bacile and the film’s other backers were “refugees from the Middle East.”
“The folks that I’m working with have come from a culture where they’ve been tracked down, driven from their homes. Close family members have been kidnapped, raped and murdered,” said Klein of the filmmaker.
Christians in much of the Middle East are persecuted and their plight has been made a cause for many American fundamentalist Christians.
Clips of the low-budget movie, which portrays the prophet Mohammed as a fraud, pedophile and homosexual, appeared on the YouTube page of a person identified as “Sam Bacile,” who also left a later YouTube comment in colloquial Egyptian Arabic.
Searches of federal and state public records including civil and criminal court documents and real estate filings revealed no mention of anyone with Bacile’s name.
There is no record of a Sam Bacile, or a similarly named person, having received a real estate license in California.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Sara Ashley O'Brien, CNN
Ariane de Vogue and Dan Berman, CNN
Blake Ellis and Melanie Hicken, CNN
Megan McNulty, Deseret News