Neil deGrasse Tyson responds to sexual misconduct claims, supports investigation
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UPDATE: Neil deGrasse Tyson responded to the two accusations of sexual misconduct and one accusation of rape lodged against him by three women over the past few weeks.
In his statement, released over his official Facebook page, the astrophysicist offered his account of all three alleged incidents and supported the independent investigations Fox Broadcasting Company and National Geographic are conducting on the matter.
Dr. Katelyn N. Allers claimed she was “felt up” by Tyson during a photo op in 2009 when he allegedly examined her body tattoo in an “uncomfortable and creepy” manner. With his detailed recollection of events, Tyson denies groping her, stating he only searched “under the covered part of her shoulder of the sleeveless dress.”
Tyson’s former assistant Ashley Watson described an alleged incident in which he allegedly made unwanted sexual advances over wine in his apartment. Tyson writes how she confronted him about this meeting in the days that followed.
“At that last meeting in my office, I apologized profusely,” he states. “She accepted the apology. And I assured her that had I known she was uncomfortable, I would have apologized on the spot, ended the evening, and possibly reminded her of the other social gathering that she could attend. She nonetheless declared it her last day, with only a few days left of production. I note that her final gesture to me was the offer of a hug, which I accepted as a parting friend.”
Tchiya Amet, a fellow grad student of Tyson’s in 1984, publicly accused him of drugging and raping her. Tyson writes how he had “a brief relationship with a fellow astro-graduate student” at the time but remembers “being intimate only a few times, all at her apartment.” He adds, “but the chemistry wasn’t there. So the relationship faded quickly. There was nothing otherwise odd or unusual about this friendship.”
“I didn’t see much of her after that time,” Tyson writes. “Our student offices were on different floors of the building and we were not in the same classes. A few years later, I ran into her, pregnant, with who I think was the father by her side. That’s when I had learned that she dropped out of graduate school. Again, this is not itself an unusual fact, but I nonetheless wished her well in motherhood and in whatever career path would follow.”
“I’m the accused, so why believe anything I say? Why believe me at all?” Tyson writes in conclusion. “That brings us back to the value of an independent investigation, which FOX/NatGeo (the networks on which Cosmos and StarTalk air) announced that they will conduct. I welcome this. Accusations can damage a reputation and a marriage. Sometimes irreversibly. I see myself as loving husband and as a public servant – a scientist and educator who serves at the will of the public. I am grateful for the support I’ve received from those who continue to respect and value me and my work.”
Read Tyson’s full statement below.
EARLIER: The producers behind Cosmos, as well as Fox Broadcasting Company and National Geographic, are currently investigating sexual misconduct claims against Neil deGrasse Tyson, the astrophysicist and author who hosts the science series.
Patheos.com published accounts from two women this week who stated Tyson behaved inappropriately with them.
Dr. Katelyn N. Allers said she was “felt up” by Tyson at an American Astronomical Society after-party in 2009. He allegedly “grabbed” her during a photo op to look at a tattoo running along her arm. “He looked for Pluto and followed the tattoo into my dress,” she said, describing the incident as “uncomfortable and creepy.”
Ashley Watson, one of Tyson’s former assistants, said she was forced to quit her job following unwanted sexual advances. She claims Tyson, who was still married during the alleged incident, invited her to his apartment to “share a bottle of wine” when he made unwanted sexual advances — asking if she needed any type of “releases,” walking around in a tank top undershirt, performing an intimate “Native American handshake” that involved holding hands tightly and feeling for her pulse, and suggesting he would “just want more” if he went to hug her.
This follows an account from Tchiya Amet, who publicly accused Tyson of drugging and raping her in 1984.
“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,” a statement from the show’s producers to EW reads. “We are committed to a thorough investigation of this matter and to act accordingly as soon as it is concluded.”
In a joint statement, Fox Broadcasting Company and National Geographic said, “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.”
Cosmos: Possible Worlds, the 13-episode new season of the series, was announced earlier this year for a premiere in 2019. Tyson has been attached to host again. He’s also planning for the release of Astrophysics for Young People in a Hurry, an adaptation of his best-selling Astrophysics for People in a Hurry that’s geared for younger readers.
Tyson serves as the director of the Hayden Planetarium at New York’s American Museum of Natural History. He has yet to publicly address the matter.
Reps for Tyson, the museum, and Tyson’s publisher W.W. Norton did not respond to EW’s requests for comment.