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The man whose anti-Muslim film was wrongly cited for sparking protests that led to the Benghazi debacle doesn’t hold a grudge against the U.S. government, although he was shocked at how it all played out and is working on a book about his experience.
Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, speaking to CNN’s Jake Tapper after his release from prison, says the Obama administration acted irresponsibly in initially linking the deadly terror attack last September 11 on the U.S. diplomatic compound in eastern Libya to outrage over “The Innocence of Muslims.”
A YouTube trailer of the film, which cast the Prophet Mohammed in an unflattering light, was highlighted by Egyptian media and did spark protests in parts of the Muslim world.
The 55-year-old Egyptian-American has been granted supervised release from a federal prison, according to the Justice Department. Bureau of Prisons records show he is at an undisclosed halfway house in Southern California and is due to be formally freed next month.
He landed in jail after the uproar over his film for a probation violation related to a 2010 bank fraud conviction
Asked how he felt when the administration tied his film to the attack by armed militants that killed Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans, Nakoula said he was shocked.
"Because, you know, I never thought, my movie can cause anyone trouble or anyone can get killed from my movie," he said.
Asked if he thought the administration put him in danger, Nakoula declined to comment. But he said the government is "hiding" him.
He said he personally likes President Barack Obama but says his administration was irresponsible over the Benghazi matter, highlighted in television appearances by then U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice. She said it appeared that the Benghazi attack was linked to protests over the movie, which were later proved untrue.
"I don't blame him. He has a lot of responsibility," Nakoula said of Obama, but adding a message for his administration.
"Guys, before you do anything, please give yourself time to think about it, because you are responsible people. You are in a place - you have to be responsible in it," he said.
But there were others complaining about the film as well.
The actors involved in the film said Nakoula misled them on the content and dubbed over their lines with more incendiary, anti-Muslim ones.
One of the actresses, Cindy Lee Garcia, filed a lawsuit against Nakoula and others.
"When I signed on the film was called ‘Desert Warrior’ and it was supposed to be based on how it was 2000 years ago. On set, Mohammed or Muslims were never mentioned," Garcia said in September. "My whole life has been turned upside down."
Nakoula said he tried to explain to the actors what the movie was about, but that they didn't care.
Nakoula, a Coptic Christian from a community oppressed in Egypt, insists his film is not against Islam, but against terrorism. He does not feel any responsibility for violent protests of his film.
Nakoula said protesters and people who reacted violently to the film are "stupid people, they didn’t even show the whole movie."
"My movie is not a religion movie, it's political more than [religious]. I never be against any religion. I have a Muslim friends. I am against the terrorism culture," said Nakoula. "I am against Osama bin Laden. I am against (Al Qaeda leader Ayman al) Zawahiri. I am against (Fort Hood shooting suspect Nidal) Hasan. … I am against the culture itself, not the religion."
Nakoula said he wishes that the accused Boston Marathon bombers and Hasan had seen his film because he bets it would have prevented those attacks.
Update: Lawyers for actress Cindy Lee Garcia told CNN in a statement that Nakoula's claim that he tried to tell actors what the film was about "is a blatant lie."
The statement also rebutted Nakoula's claim that he turned the cast into real actors, saying, "In reality, [Nakoula] dubbed over the performances of the actors ... to make it appear as though they had made outrageous accusations against the founder of the Islamic religion, resulting in a fatwa being issued against both Ms. Garcia and others connected with the production."
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The Lead with Jake Tapper draws not only on Tapper’s deep knowledge of politics and national issues, but also seeks to examine and advance stories across a wide range of topics that demonstrate his own curiosities and interests. Compelling headlines come from around the country and the globe, from politics to money, sports to popular culture, based on news drivers of the day.
The Lead with Jake Tapper airs weekdays at 4 p.m. ET.
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