A California man says he tried to alert officials about a mysterious anti-Islam film months before it became the center of an international crisis involving the deaths of American diplomats in the Middle East.
On June 29, a man named John Walsh, who blogs at hollywoodhighlands.org, appeared before the Los Angeles City Council and raised concerns about a movie titled “Innocence of Bin Laden,” that was set to be shown that week at a theater in Hollywood.
That movie now appears to be a version of a film blamed for setting off violent protests at U.S. Embassies in the Middle East. It’s unclear whether the film was linked to the deaths of American diplomats in Libya, but it has been cited as the driving force for demonstrations in Egypt, Sudan and Yemen.
“There is an alarming event occurring in Hollywood on Saturday,” Walsh said at the city council meeting. “A group has rented the Vine Street theater to show a video entitled ‘Innocence of Bin Laden.’ We have no idea what this group is.”
Walsh raised the prospect in his comments that the group promoting the movie was anti-Semitic, and even accused a city councilman of being an anti-Semite after he had been interrupted. At the same council meeting, Walsh also offered public comments on several other topics.
In early July, clips from the film, which includes absurd and offensive depictions of the Prophet Muhammad, were uploaded to YouTube with the titles “Muhammad Movie Trailer” and “The Real Life of Muhammad.” The name of the full-length film has been reported as “Innocence of Muslims.” But it has also been reported that the film’s original title was “Innocence of Bin Laden.”
In an all-caps item posted on his blog on June 27, Walsh wrote that two posters for “Innocence of Bin Laden” could be seen at the Hollywood Boulevard theater, promoting two screenings set for the 30th.
“MOST OF THE POSTER IS IN ARABIC EXCEPT FOR THE MOVIE TITLE AND A BIN LADEN PHOTO,” Walsh wrote.
On June 30, an update on the website said that the screening had been cancelled, and that the manager of the theater had told Walsh that, “they decided not to show it.”
An email to hollywoodhighlands.org was not immediately returned.
In an interview Wednesday, an associate of Steve Klein, who has admitted having some role in the creation of the film, told TPM he had been asked by Klein to attend a screening of the film.
“I was just made aware there was a screening, and then I asked, ‘How did it go?’” Dr. Gary Cass, head of a group called the Christian Anti-Defamation Commission, said. “Klein told me it was a flop. And I thought that was over, and that was months ago.”
Watch the video of Walsh speaking to the City Council:
Eric Lach is a reporter for TPM. From 2010 to 2011, he was a news writer in charge of the website’s front page. He has previously written for The Daily, NewYorker.com, GlobalPost and other publications. He can be reached at ericl(at)talkingpointsmemo.com