Neil deGrasse Tyson Responds to Sexual Misconduct Allegations
Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson responded to sexual misconduct allegations from two women against him with a lengthy Facebook post Saturday after news broke that the TV networks he has hosted shows for were investigating him.
Tyson went into detail surrounding the individual allegations. One woman, Bucknell University associate professor of physics and astronomy Katelyn N. Allers, told the religion and spirituality site Patheos.com about being “felt up” by Tyson at an afterparty following an American Astronomical Society meeting in 2009 while he looked at her tattoo of the solar system. Another woman, Ashley Watson, who worked as an assistant for Tyson quit her job because of his sexual advances, she says. Tyson has also long been accused by musician Tchiya Amet of drugging and raping her when they were graduate students.
In his Facebook post, Tyson blames the 2009 incident—with the solar system tattoo—on his excitement about “cosmic bling.”
“I have professional history with the demotion of Pluto, which had occurred officially just three years earlier. So whether people include it or not in their tattoos is of great interest to me. I was reported to have ‘groped’ her by searching ‘up her dress,’ when this was simply a search under the covered part of her shoulder of the sleeveless dress,” he wrote. “I only just learned (nine years after) that she thought this behavior creepy. That was never my intent and I’m deeply sorry to have made her feel that way. Had I been told of her discomfort in the moment, I would have offered this same apology eagerly, and on the spot.”
He describes his relationship with Watson, who accused him of inappropriate sexual advances and misogynistic comments, as a “friendly” relationship in which conversation covered a wide range of topics, and says he invited her over for wine and cheese with “no pressure.” Watson told the New York Times that Tyson said to her that night, “I want you to know that I want to hug you so bad right now, but I know that if I do I’ll just want more.”
Tyson also goes into detail about his relationship with Amet, whose accusations he says are as if “a false memory had been implanted, which, because it never actually happened, had to be remembered as an evening she doesn’t remember.” Amet responded to Tyson’s statements on Twitter, saying he was lying.
Fox and National Geographic networks are both investigating the allegations against Tyson. Tyson hosted Cosmos on Fox in 2014 and a new version of the program is set to air on National Geographic in 2019. The American Museum of Natural History, where Tyson directs the Hayden Planetarium, told the New York Times it was also looking into the allegations.
“The credo at the heart of Cosmos is to follow the evidence wherever it leads. The producers of Cosmos can do no less in this situation,” producers of the show said in a statement to the Associated Press.
Tyson in his Facebook post criticized the #MeToo movement—which over the past year has seen men accused of years and decades of sexual assault and harassment lose their jobs over the behavior—as one that abandons “due process” (a legal standard that refers to the judicial system, not a standard for employers).
“For a variety of reasons, most justified, some unjustified, men accused of sexual impropriety in today’s ‘me-too’ climate are presumed to be guilty by the court of public opinion. Emotions bypass due-process, people choose sides, and the social media wars begin,” Tyson wrote. “In any claim, evidence matters. Evidence always matters. But what happens when it’s just one person’s word against another’s, and the stories don’t agree? That’s when people tend to pass judgment on who is more credible than whom. And that’s when an impartial investigation can best serve the truth – and would have my full cooperation to do so.”