WASHINGTON (AP) — The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff asked a Florida preacher Wednesday to withdraw his support of the anti-Muslim film that may have fueled 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 inflame 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 asked us not to promote or show the film … I told him that we would definitely consider that. I would first have to watch the film.”
Stephanie Sapp, a spokeswoman for Jones, said the group was not going to show the film Wednesday evening and had never planned to do so. The group had planned to show an excerpt of the film on Tuesday night, but Internet difficulties made that impossible.
Jones also said that 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 Associated Press as Sam Bacile, but there are ongoing questions about his real identity and his claims that he is an Israeli-born Jewish writer.
“I have not met him. Sam Bacile, that is not his real name,” Jones said in the phone interview. “I just talked to him on the phone. He is definitely in hiding and does not reveal his identity. He was quite honestly fairly shook up concerning the events and what is happening.”
Jones runs a small church called Dove Outreach World Center in Gainesville, Florida, which has only a few dozen members. 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.
YouTube has continued to leave the video on its site but has blocked access to it in Egypt, where it also provoked angry protests.
Associated Press writer Tamara Lush contributed to this report from Tampa, Florida.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.