Neil deGrasse Tyson Addresses Sexual Misconduct Allegations

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Neil deGrasse Tyson
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Neil deGrasse Tyson is addressing sexual misconduct allegations leveled against him.

“I’ve recently been [publicly] accused of sexual misconduct,” the noted astrophysicist wrote in a Facebook post on Saturday. “These accusations have received a fair amount of press in the past forty-eight hours, unaccompanied by my reactions. In many cases, it’s not the media’s fault.  I declined comment on the grounds that serious accusations should not be adjudicated in the press.  But clearly I cannot continue to stay silent."

He went on to address three alleged incidents, beginning with 2009, when he says he was asked to take a photo with Dr. Katelyn N. Allers at an American Astronomical Society after-party in Long Beach, California, which was first reported by Patheos. After taking the photo, Allers says Tyson noticed that she had a solar system tattoo on her arm and began allegedly looking for Pluto, leading him up her arm. She noted that she didn’t consider the incident sexual assault, but said it displayed that the astrophysicist is capable of “creepy behavior.”

“I only just learned (nine years after) that she thought this behavior creepy,” he wrote. “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.”

Next, Tyson discussed an evening spent with a production assistant named Ashley Watson in the summer of 2018, also reported by Patheos. After a long day of working together, the Cosmos host says he invited her into his apartment for wine and cheese. 

“Afterwards, she came into my office to told me she was creeped out by the wine & cheese evening,” he wrote. “She viewed the invite as an attempt to seduce her, even though she sat across the wine & cheese table from me, and all conversation had been in the same vein as all other conversations we ever had.”

He went on to address a special handshake he’d shown her, which may have made her uncomfortable.

“Further, I never touched her until I shook her hand upon departure,” he added. “On that occasion, I had offered a special handshake, one I learned from a Native elder on reservation land at the edge of the Grand Canyon.  You extend your thumb forward during the handshake to feel the other person’s vital spirit energy -- the pulse.  I’ve never forgotten that handshake, and I save it in appreciation of people with whom I’ve developed new friendships.”

Lastly, he responded to allegations that he drugged and raped a woman named Tchiya Amet in the early 1980s while attending graduate school, once again according to Patheos.

 “Over this time I had a brief relationship with a fellow astro-graduate student, from a more recent entering class,” he wrote. “I remember being intimate only a few times, all at her apartment, but the chemistry wasn’t there. So the relationship faded quickly. There was nothing otherwise odd or unusual about this friendship.”

“More than thirty years later, as my visibility-level took another jump, I read a freshly posted blog accusing me of drugging and raping a woman I did not recognize by either photo or name,” he continued. “Turned out to be the same person who I dated briefly in graduate school. She had changed her name and lived an entire life, married with children, before this accusation.”

Tyson concluded by stating that he welcomes independent investigations into the allegations. “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 (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,” he wrote. “I see myself as [a] 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.”

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