Neil deGrasse Tyson ‘welcomes’ investigations into his alleged sexual harassment

Neil deGrasse Tyson in attendance for ST...

Neil deGrasse Tyson is a “rock star” in the scientific world – he’s a charismatic educator, broadcaster and STEM advocate with multiple TV deals and speaking/lecturing gigs. But there seems to be a dark side to all of his rock-starring. In October 2014, a woman who was a graduate student with deGrasse Tyson at the University of Texas at Austin wrote on her blog that he had drugged and raped her years beforehand. In the past week, two additional women have come forward to tell their stories about deGrasse Tyson. Dr. Katelyn N. Allers told Patheos that deGrasse Tyson felt her up at a 2009 party, while he seemingly was trying to look at all of her tattoos. She says now that it likely didn’t rise to the level of assault, but she describes him as “creepy” and says that “my experience with him is he’s not someone who has great respect for female bodily autonomy.” A third woman, named Ashley Watson, says that she was forced to quit her job as his assistant after he repeatedly sexually harassed her.

Well, deGrasse Tyson has decided to respond to these accusations one by one – you can read his lengthy Facebook post on the topic here. Here’s the main crux:

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.

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.

I’ve recently been publically accused of sexual misconduct. 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.

… I’m the accused, so why believe anything I say? Why believe me at all?

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.

[From Neil deGrasse Tyson’s Facebook]

As I said, you can read the full Facebook post if you want to read his explanations for each incident. He clearly remembers each woman and he’s not pulling a “don’t know her” on any of his accusers. After reading his post, I felt like he was probably creepy with women, and probably crossed the line with colleagues, coworkers and subordinates quite often, but that he doesn’t realize how creepy he seems to some women. As he says, there should be full investigations and I hope these accusations aren’t swept under the rug.

Neil DeGrasse Tyson at arrivals for Prim...

Photos courtesy of Avalon Red.

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41 Responses to “Neil deGrasse Tyson ‘welcomes’ investigations into his alleged sexual harassment”

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  1. damejudi says:

    I hope this isn’t a case of “hey, I don’t deny what I did” equals “I did nothing wrong.”

    Acknowledging your behavior is not the same as taking responsibility for doing something that was flat-out wrong. And maybe, just maybe, you learn from it and don’t ever do it again.

    • charo says:

      I wasn’t there. But going to your boss’s apartment at 10:30 pm to drink with him is something I would not do.

      It’s reasonable to tell him “I wouldn’t do that w/someone I work for because it looks bad.” If you’re close enough to DO that you’re close enough to bring up the issue.

      I woldn’t go to someone’s hotel room either. Meet in the hotel bar or dining room.

      Unless you’re enjoying flirting w/misbehavior, there’s no upside.

      A guy could go drink w/him; a woman needs to not.

  2. Scal says:

    I used to work in the astrophysics field-and these rumors (and worse) have been around for YEARS. So I was not surprised and wouldn’t be surprised if more women come out with their stories.

    He also admits saying to his assistant “I’d hug you but if I did I’d want more” and doing a creepy ‘indian’ handshake where he would rub his thumb over her pulse. It’s gross and sketchy and not what any boss should be doing with someone that works under them.

    • Erinn says:

      Yeaaahhhh… I had kind of given him the benefit of the doubt until I had time to sit down and actually look at the story. I had just heard in passing that he’d been accused, and I was like “well, I’m going to need to look up the story here”.

      And honestly… I feel way more sketched out after reading his take. Sure, there’s a certain amount of things that can be written off as “I didn’t know I was making them uncomfortable” because honestly – a lot of men seem to be oblivious to the fact that their behavior is uncomfortable. But at a certain point… you don’t get to just plead ignorance. When you’re saying things like “I’d hug you but if I did I’d want more” there’s not really any other way to take that. You need to take responsibility for the words and phrases you’re putting out into the world, and somehow he seems to be leaning hard into the ignorance thing. Which – would be more believable if it was just a few actions here and there. But when you’re saying shit like that you’re a creep. You’re being creepy. End of story.

      I hope he’s genuinely adjusted his behavior and is actual concerned about how he’s made people feel. It’s a small thing that he’s not fighting it completely, though he certainly doesn’t deserve a cookie for basic acceptance of the situation. Sorry that he feels like a great family man, but it doesn’t excuse him of being a creep.

      • JeanGrey says:

        I’m not trying to defend him here , because I believe the story of the woman he went to college with who ended up dropping out and seeking a more spiritual avenue, but the “I’d hug you but if I did I’d want more” line can be taken as he may want more hugs. A bit awkward, still but I can see his side of that story, especially if she was as “huggy” around the set and he claimed she was, and he was just trying to keep it professional but be polite with that clumsy line.

    • Scal says:

      @Jean I’d think I’d be more inclined to believe that if it wasn’t combined with the fact that it was in his hotel room after he had taken off his shirt, done the creepy thing with her wrist, and given a speech about people needing ‘releases’. If you read both her full statement and his-it’s pretty clear to me what he meant.

      • tealily says:

        Yikes! And to be clear, the hug line is creepy enough on its own. I’ve been wondering about this one, because I’d seen something in the press about an accusation previously (like, months ago), and seemingly nothing had come from it and no one even acknowledged it. Glad this is being pursued, but it sure is a shame that it has to be our most popular advocates for science to the public.

        So many of those “rock star” types in their fields (any field) are kind of creepy or inappropriate with women. Don’t know the guy outside his public persona, never heard anything about him personally, but I wouldn’t call myself shocked by this.

      • Some chick says:

        Yeah, her statement is chilling. Particularly the part about the knife.

        Also, let’s not forget dude is married – and therefor cheating (or at least attempting to cheat). That’s not the worst part of this by far, but it casts doubt on the “I didn’t know it wasn’t ok” excuse. Surely he knows cheating is wrong!

        F’n rockstars and boy geniuses. :-(

  3. hezzer19 says:

    First things first. I believe those women. Completely.

    Having said that, this one really hurts. Part of me hopes it’s not true.

  4. Betsy says:

    “I see myself as loving husband and as a public servant” Yeah, I think Bill Cosby felt the same way. It doesn’t sound like Tyson hits the same levels of depravity, but so many of the alleged criminals (I’ll give Tyson the benefit of the “alleged,” not Cosby) one sees don’t think of themselves as bad people. They put their crimes *over here.* He’s always kind of pinged something for me, but I couldn’t have guessed what.

  5. MattyLove says:

    Gosh, I’m seeing a few things in the Facebook post that are a bit “off.” When talking about the woman who is accusing him of rape: “pregnant…with the man I assumed was the father,” and repeated references to her being a “dropout,” even though repeatedly saying dropping out is “okay” or “not unusual.” I’m sure he’s very angry about being accused but this feels like he’s trying to belittle her. He makes a big effort to respond to the claims objectively but then throws in comments like those above or like “she hugged everyone” or “I refused her hugs except for that last time.” It all feels off.

    • Kitty says:

      Agreed. I think it would have been better to wait for an investigation. That Facebook post was kind of odd, and he comes across as a creep to me honestly.

  6. teehee says:

    I read at least an excerpt of his statement, and I have some thoughts.

    It is entirely true that – especially men- are not entirely aware of how a woman is experiencing something. And even women may not fully process everything or understand, until later.

    However, this is not some ticket to ride the “assault lawsuit” gravy train and think that everyone who ever made you uncomfortable in the past, is somehow a perpetrator.

    They aren’t all!!

    I see a marked difference between what Weinstein did and what Tyson did. To me he sounded like any guy who tries to pursue a woman but that woman was not at all on teh same page, and that’s a very “simple” situation that anyone can find themself in (man or woman!! I also have been very interested in a man who took my actions in a quite terrible way…)

    Men and women work differently, as a base rule, too. If a man is not interested, and we lift our shirts, usually the man is then interested. If a woman is not interested, and he drops his pants, usually she calls the police. We cant be turned on and off so simply like men and I think this is why its so hard for men to realize how differently we work.

    But this does not automatically equal assault, point blank. There is “intent to pursue against someones will” and then there is “NOT KNOWING someones will” which granted men are not great at, AND, women are taught to SMILE and nod and go along with things far beyond their own INTERNAL comfort zones.

    The rule I go by is:

    ==> Am I going to blame anyone when I myself was not being stronger at the time? NO.
    ==> Am I going to blame anyone who got a clear statement that I was uncomfortable? YES.
    ==> What about if I/he/she didn’t know better? Usually the law will dictate the boundaries, or social norms will give best advice.

    Any of the above can be a situation where assault can happen, *especially “IN HINDSIGHT”*, because sometimes it takes years for something to process or for you to define your boundaries in the first place. But I will not call all of them that happened to me, intentional assaults.

    [Maybe if I read the whole thing, I will change my mind. I realize now I only got a nice edit of the statement, apparently]
    And/or I really want to deny this one, cos c’mon man… I don’t get from him that he would ever intend to harm someone. But, it wasn’t me to whom this happened…

    • Kitty says:

      You should read the whole statement. Why leave such a long comment with your opinion on the situation without reading the entire statement?

      • teehee says:

        I thought I had, then saw the other comments here referring to portions I hadn’t yet seen.
        I leave my thoughts cos those are my thoughts now. Kinda what comment threads are for.

    • Aven Sharp says:

      The law used to say that rape within marriage wasn’t rape, and social norms are the reason men felt okay to creep on and assault women.

      Here’s my rule: only yes means yes. Did he ask to shake her hand that way? Did he ask if it was okay to look further for the tattoo under her clothes? People in power rarely ask, they just assume a yes, and that’s the problem and it always has been.

      • chips n sticks says:

        How about: Would he have given a man that same handshake? Would he lift the shoulder of a man’s shirt to find Pluto? Would he say the comment about hugs to a man? If the answers are all no, then doesn’t that lead to the conclusion he must have known he was crossing a line?

    • aenflex says:

      I agree with your sentiments. Not about Degrasse-Tyson specifically, but in general.

    • LouLou says:

      What gravy train? Most women who come forward against public figures get called sluts and receive death threats.

      • ...otaku fairy says:

        Exactly. I’m not sure why some think adult women need a reminder that not every situation where they’re made to feel uncomfortable is a Weinstein situation? My other question would be how drugging and raping someone is a misunderstanding?

    • ...otaku fairy says:

      We do need to encourage girls to be assertive. But guys also shouldn’t be sent a message that consent is only about whether or not a woman screams/strongly says no either.

  7. Meowuirose says:

    Et tu Brute? Sigh….such a disappointment. Not going to lie, when I heard about this I really didnt want to believe it. Like really really.

  8. OriginalLala says:

    I’m honestly at the point where I’m no longer surprised when men in positions of power are found to have crossed the line with women – the world has been their oyster for far too long with too few consequences.

  9. Mabs A'Mabbin says:

    There have been a lot of creepy men in my life. A LOT. Some never got my hints unless I spelled shit out. Some were ‘touchy creepy.’ Most just said creepy shit. I remember thinking a few didn’t or couldn’t comprehend my rejections. Others were purposefully nagging as though I’d change my mind down the road. If any of these dweebs were billionaires without ever honing their game they’d be publicly chastised. I can’t even count how many times I heard something akin to, ‘If I…. Then I wouldn’t be able to…..’ I rolled my eyes then, and I roll my eyes now. It’s either immature or a ridiculous statement to test the waters. Smarmy men are as bad as forceful women who pour themselves on a person. Jail time might not be called for in these instances but a mind has to want to grow more respectful. However if my hero, Tyson, forced or did what he was told not to, it’s time for consequences.

  10. Chaine says:

    To top it all off, he is supposed to be a scientist, but he’s spouting this woo woo about using an ancient handshake to feel “spirit energy”—WTF.

    • SJhere says:

      Excellent point, Chained. Spot on too.

    • Carmen says:

      He is a brilliant astrophysicist with a dark side in his personal life. It seems like so many charismatic and famous men have dark sides in their personal lives. As if they think they can do any damn thing they want and their fame and charisma will protect them from the consequences

  11. Lala11_7 says:

    And once AGAIN…my Scorpion intuition…is HEARTBREAKINGLY ON POINT! Cause I got those vibes from him…YEARS AGO….

    • megs283 says:

      Yeah. Unfortunately it seems as though these charismatic types have an issue with boundaries (or the law).

      • Veronica S. says:

        It’s the charisma. Be charming and handsome enough, and you can talk people into second guessing their own experiences.

  12. Sue Denim says:

    Ugh, I’m not a religious person so I’m probably getting this wrong, but the fall of so many of our “golden idols” (men in power behaving badly on so many dimensions, in so many fields) feels almost biblical, and so dispiriting. I hope this story isn’t true, but it reminds me of a professor I had years ago — young, handsome, smart, etc. not overtly creepy — but he was always coming on to me and others, and it was the power dynamic that made it all so uncomfortable, shady, and subtly threatening, and a bit scary…

  13. Miss Gloss says:

    Why do I get the impression that if things are founded, he might go to Hollywood Jail for a few months (staying off of social media and staying low key for a while) then re-emerge like everything is cool again? Smh

  14. nucks says:

    I used to listen to Star Talk podcast and I got that nagging “fratty” sense. They had a kind of Benny Hill leer in their jokes and sensibility. And I know for a fact he’s a diva. But so sad to hear that he acted out on women.

  15. Wood Dragon says:

    Drat. Drat. Drat!
    (Heavy sigh)
    Perhaps he’ll come through this all right -
    AND maybe he won’t.
    We need more honorable men in public life.

  16. Sam says:

    Nerds are creepier than jocks. Don’t let movies fool ya, kids.

  17. Veronica S. says:

    Wow, this one hurts. A lot of major internal disappointment over this one.

  18. Trashaddict says:

    Regardless of outcome, this has become depressingly familiar.

  19. Di Ogenese says:

    Those eighties jocks were trying to warn us about The Nerds and we didn’t listen.