Neil DeGrasse Tyson Responds to Accusations of Sexual Misconduct

Neil DeGrasse Tyson Responds to Accusations of Sexual Misconduct December 3, 2018

Last my colleague posted an article outlining allegations of “creepy” behavior by Neil deGrasse Tyson. National Geographic and Fox said they planned to investigate the allegations against Tyson. With his professional career on the line, Tyson took to Facebook to deny the allegations published on Patheos last week.

In a Facebook post titled “On Being Accused,” Tyson provided his side of the story on the allegations against him by two former colleagues. His first explanation revolved around the 2009 incident between him and a coworker.

The Patheos article alleges that deGrasse alleged he groped a coworker by looking up her dress. Tyson’s perspective on the incident is quite a bit different. He says:

“A colleague at a well attended, after-conference, social gathering came up to me to ask for a photograph. She was wearing a sleeveless dress with a tattooed solar system extending up her arm. And while I don’t explicitly remember searching for Pluto at the top of her shoulder, it is surely something I would have done in that situation.
As we all know, I have professional history with the demotion of Pluto, which had occurred officially just three years earlier. So whether people include it or not in their tattoos is of great interest to me. I was reported to have “groped” her by searching “up her dress”, when this was simply a search under the covered part of her shoulder of the sleeveless dress.
I only just learned (nine years after) that she thought this behavior creepy. 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. In my mind’s eye, I’m a friendly and accessible guy, but going forward, I can surely be more sensitive to people’s personal space, even in the midst of my planetary enthusiasm.”
Next, Tyson went on to explain the incident between his former assistant and him in the summer of 2018. The former assistant alleged that Tyson invited her over to his house for wine and cheese.
Ashley Watson told Patheos she felt pressured to impress her boss, and she said she reluctantly accepted his invitation. She alleged that Tyson made inappropriate comments and attempted to lure her to have sex with him.
Watson said Tyson gave her an awkward and intense handshake. When she left his house, she said he made a comment that made her uncomfortable. Ashley says he put her hands on her shoulder and offered to hug her. Then she says he told her that he wasn’t going to hug her because he’d want more.
Tyson’s take on the event between his former assistant and him is starkly different. He says that he invited her to his home for wine and cheese, and he said he frequently extends similar invitations to other staff.
Regarding the comment about the hug, Tyson said,
“She is a talented, warm and friendly person — excellent traits for morale on a high pressure production. Practically everyone she knows on set gets a daily welcome-hug from her. I expressly rejected each hug offered frequently during the Production. But in its place I offered a handshake, and on a few occasions, clumsily declared, “If I hug you I might just want more.” My intent was to express restrained but genuine affection.”
Tyson continued to outline the wine and cheese evening he shared with Watson. He stated,
“Afterwards, she came into my office to told me she was creeped out by the wine & cheese evening. 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.
Further, I never touched her until I shook her hand upon departure. 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.
At that last meeting in my office, I apologized profusely. 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.”
Tyson concluded that the allegations against him have caused him to reflect on his behavior with others.  He ended his statement by saying he welcomes a full investigation by National Geographic and Fox. His concluding statement on the matter was,
“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.”
 Whether or not Tyson will lose his job with National Geographic remains to be seen. However, there are always two sides to every story. Hopefully, an investigation by the networks can sort through and find the truth.


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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Some guy

    You realize his last name is Tyson, right? But I agree — I hope the investigation reveals the truth, whatever it turns out to be.

  • persephone

    I’m just going to go with it’s his generation, and I’m sure he’s done some inappropriate things, because his generation.

    This does not mean I think he should get a pass. Too many men never, ever reflect on their behavior. They never, ever stop to think about how something they like to do, that feels good to them, may not be liked or enjoyed by the recipient.

    I read an article over the weekend that discussed a study where they asked men and women about “bad sex.” With men, it was pretty much that they didn’t get the sex they wanted, while women were focused on how often sex was painful (often forced). That says so much about privilege.

  • Some guy

    Damn, that puts things in perspective! Can you post a link, please?