General asks preacher not to back anti-Muslim film
WASHINGTON—The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff asked a Florida preacher Wednesday to withdraw his support of the anti-Muslim film blamed for fueling the fatal attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya.
Gen. Martin Dempsey called Terry Jones, who is known for inflammatory anti-Islamic rhetoric, to express his concerns about the film, saying it could spike tensions and trigger violence.
U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans were killed in the attack.
Dempsey spokesman Marine Col. Dave Lapan said Jones did not say whether he would limit or continue his backing of the movie, "Innocence of Muslims." A video excerpt of the low-budget film, which portrays Islamic Prophet Muhammad as a feckless philanderer who approved of child sexual abuse, is available on YouTube.
In an interview with The Associated Press, Jones said he would consider the request, and that he would have to watch the film first.
Stephanie Sapp, a spokeswoman for Jones, said the group was supposed to show an excerpt of the film on Tuesday night, but Internet difficulties made that impossible.
Jones also said he spoke with the movie's director on the phone Wednesday afternoon. He said he has not met the filmmaker in person, but the man contacted him a few weeks ago about promoting the movie.
The filmmaker identified himself in a telephone interview with the AP as Sam Bacile, but there are ongoing questions about his real identity.
A man identified as Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, 55, told the AP in an interview outside Los Angeles that he was manager for the company that produced the film. He provided the first details about a shadowy production group behind the movie.
Nakoula, who said he was a Coptic Christian, denied he directed the film and said he knew Bacile. But the cellphone number that AP contacted Tuesday to reach the filmmaker who identified himself as Bacile traced to the same address near Los Angeles where AP found Nakoula. Federal court papers said Nakoula's aliases included Nicola Bacily, Erwin Salameh and others.
Jones said Bacile is not the filmmaker's real name and that he is in hiding.
Jones runs a small church called Dove Outreach World Center in Gainesville, Fla. He gained notoriety in 2010 when his call to burn Qurans caused Pentagon worries that it could endanger the lives of U.S. troops in Afghanistan and Iraq. He called off the burning, but his discussions triggered unrest in Afghanistan.
Associated Press writer Tamara Lush in Tampa, Fla., contributed to this report.