Neil deGrasse Tyson Under Investigation for Sexual Misconduct
Neil deGrasse Tyson Under Investigation for Sexual Misconduct

Neil deGrasse Tyson Under Investigation for Sexual Misconduct

Two new allegations surfaced last week, following an earlier accusation of rape.

Dec 3, 2018
Ashley P. Taylor

ABOVE: WIKIMEDIA, NORWEGIAN UNIVERSITY OF SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY

Fox Broadcasting Company and National Geographic are investigating sexual misconduct allegations against astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, who stars in the TV show “Cosmos,” aired by Fox and the National Geographic Channel, Buzzfeed reports. Last week, two women, a former assistant to Tyson and a physics and astronomy professor, made sexual misconduct allegations against Tyson in interviews given to the website Patheos. These allegations follow a 2017 rape allegation against Tyson, also reported on Patheos, by a former graduate school classmate of his.

“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,” say the producers in a statement provided to the press. “We are committed to a thorough investigation of this matter and to act accordingly as soon as it is concluded.”

In a story published last Thursday (November 29) at Patheos, Katelyn Allers, a physics and astronomy professor at Bucknell University, in Lewisberg, Pennsylvania, alleges that at an American Astronomical Society conference in 2009, Tyson, while admiring an astronomy tattoo of hers, grabbed her and looked into her dress, supposedly to better see the tattoo. Allers tells Patheos that she doesn’t consider the event to be an assault but says it shows that Tyson could display “creepy behavior.” Also Thursday, Patheos reported an allegation of inappropriate sexual behavior from Ashley Watson, a former assistant to Tyson on “Cosmos.” 

The Washington Post confirmed both stories with the women making the allegations. After a day of work on set in May 2018, Tyson invited Watson to his home, Watson tells The Post. He then took off his shirt and, wearing his undershirt, served wine and cheese, at one point pointing the knife at Watson, she alleges. Watson said she was leaving and at that point, Tyson asked her to perform a handshake that involved feeling the other person’s pulse and staring into their eyes. He then said, “I want to hug you right now, but if I do I’ll just want more,” Watson tells The Post.

“It felt very manipulative and strange,” Watson tells The Post. “I felt like he was expressing that he wanted to have a sexual relationship with me.”

These allegations follow those by musician Tchiya Amet who, last year, told Patheos that in 1984, when she and Tyson were both graduate students at the University of Texas at Austin, Tyson drugged and raped her at his apartment. Patheos published more details on those allegations in early November, and that inspired Allers and Watson to come forward, according to Buzzfeed.

Tyson published a response to the allegations in a Facebook post Saturday night. He says that he did not recognize, in the moments of the alleged misconduct, how uncomfortable Allers and Watson were and that he regrets having made them uneasy. While he did not realize that his behavior had bothered Allers until last week, he says that Watson confronted him about the wine-and-cheese evening on her last day at work and that he then “apologized profusely.” He also says that he made the hug-related comments to Watson “on a few occasions” in the context of refusing her hugs and offering a handshake instead. In his statement, Tyson rejects Amet’s accusation of assault. Tyson also states that he welcomes the investigation by Fox and National Geographic.