Celebrity Astrophysicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson is Facing 3 Sexual Misconduct Allegations

Mimi Nguyen Ly
By Mimi Nguyen Ly
December 5, 2018US News
Celebrity Astrophysicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson is Facing 3 Sexual Misconduct Allegations
Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson at Lincoln Square IMAX in New York City on June 20, 2018. (Lars Niki/Getty Images for IMAX)

Neil deGrasse Tyson, astrophysicist and media personality, is under investigation at Fox Broadcasting Company and National Geographic after three women alleged he committed acts of sexual misconduct, with one of the women claiming that Tyson drugged and raped her in the early 1980s.

Tyson is the host of a documentary series “Cosmos,” aired by Fox Broadcasting and National Geographic. The two companies issued a statement, reported by Buzzfeed, that read: “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.

“We are committed to a thorough investigation of this matter and to act accordingly as soon as it is concluded.

“We have only just become aware of the recent allegations regarding Neil deGrasse Tyson. We take these matters very seriously and we are reviewing the recent reports.”

In a lengthy response to the allegations, Tyson wrote on Facebook on Dec. 2 that he welcomes the investigations.

“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.”

Rape Allegation

The three allegations were reported on Patheos.com. Of these, Tyson has refuted the allegation that he had committed rape.

A musician named Tchiya Amet told Patheos.com in October 2017 that Tyson had drugged and raped her in his apartment in the 1980s when the pair were in graduate school at the University of Texas at Austin.

Amet had also written about the incident in 2014 on her blog, saying that it had left her traumatized for decades.

Tyson said on Facebook that he had a brief sexual relationship with Amet but denied that he had ever raped her.

“According to her blog posts, the drug and rape allegation comes from an assumption of what happened to her during a night that she cannot remember. It is as though a false memory had been implanted, which, because it never actually happened, had to be remembered as an evening she doesn’t remember,” Tyson wrote.

Patheos.com published further details of Amet’s rape allegations in early November, accompanied by an extended phone call interview:

‘Lack of Respect’

According to Buzzfeed, the latest report from Patheos.com on Amet had prompted two more women to come forward later that month.

In Tyson’s Facebook response, Tyson acknowledged the two allegations, but said that in both cases, his intentions had been misinterpreted by the women.

In one case, astronomer Katelyn Allers, an associate professor at Bucknell University, said he had touched her inappropriately while looking at a tattoo of the solar system on her arm and shoulder. The incident occurred at an afterparty of an American Astronomical Society meeting in 2009.

“After we had taken the picture, he noticed my tattoo and kind of grabbed me to look at it, and was really obsessed about whether I had Pluto on this tattoo or not… and then he looked for Pluto, and followed the tattoo into my dress,” she told Patheos.com.

Allers told Patheos.com she does not consider the incident to be an assault, but said it showed a lack of respect.

“My experience with him is he’s not someone who has great respect for female bodily autonomy,” she told Patheos.com.

Woman Quit Job After Alleged Sexual Misconduct

The remaining allegation comes from Ashley Watson, who worked for Tyson as a production assistant on the Santa Fe set of “Cosmos.” She told The Washington Post that she had hoped Tyson would ask her to continue working for him when the production moved to Europe. However, she decided to quit her job following an incident in May this year.

Watson recounted to the Post that Tyson had invited her to his home after a day at work. When she arrived, he removed his shirt leaving only an undershirt, and began to serve wine and cheese.

According to Patheos.com, Watson said that Tyson spoke about how every human being needs “physical releases,” and asked what hers was. He also reportedly said that he felt it was difficult for him to be away from home for several months.

Watson responded with a story about sexual harassment that she had endured in the past.

By this point, she began to get up to leave when Tyson allegedly stopped her and said he would like to show her a Native American handshake.

The handshake involved holding hands tightly and feeling for each other’s pulse while maintaining eye contact, Watson told Patheos.com. She then broke off the handshake and tried again to get up to leave.

Tyson then put his hands on Watson’s shoulders and said “I want to hug you right now, but if I do I’ll just want more,” the Post reported.

Watson said that she confronted him the next day about the incident, only to be told that she would never progress in her career because she was too “distracting.”

Watson decided to quit following the incident. According to Patheos.com, Watson had told the story to at least one supervisor, hoping that he wouldn’t hire more female assistants for Tyson. The supervisor supported her decision to quit and advised that she should explain her departure as owing to a family emergency, to avoid more uncomfortable situations.

In Tyson’s Facebook response to the allegations, he wrote:

“I’m the accused, so why believe anything I say? Why believe me at all?” he wrote.

“That brings us back to the value of an independent investigation, which FOX/NatGeo announced that they will conduct. I welcome this.”

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