'I can surely be more sensitive': Neil deGrasse Tyson denies allegations of sexual misconduct

NOTE: This article contains sexual language and may be triggering for some readers. Please read at your own discretion.

Renowned astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson will be investigated by Fox and National Geographic Networks after allegations of sexual misconduct were levelled against him.

Patheos.com published accounts last week from two women who say that Tyson behaved in a sexually inappropriate manner with them.

In a Facebook post Saturday, Tyson denied an accusation that he groped a woman and he denied that he made sexual advances toward a production assistant when he invited her to share wine and cheese at his home.

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He apologized for making the production assistant feel uncomfortable.

“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,” Tyson wrote in the Facebook post. “Emotions bypass due-process, people choose sides, and the social media wars begin.”

He continued: “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.”

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“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,” he wrote.

“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,” Tyson said.

“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,” he said.

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Katelyn N. Allers, an associate professor of physics and astronomy at Bucknell University in Pennsylvania, told Patheos about meeting Tyson in 2009.

She said they were at a party after a gathering of the American Astronomical Society. She has a tattoo of the solar system stretching from an arm to her collarbone.

Allers said Tyson was “obsessed” with the tattoo and wanted to know if it included Pluto. “He looked for Pluto, and followed the tattoo into my dress,” she told the website, describing it as “uncomfortable and creepy.”

Another accuser, Ashley Watson, told Patheos that she quit her position as Tyson’s production assistant this past summer after she alleges that he tried to pressure her into sex. She allegedly visited his house, where he offered an “awkward and incredibly intimate handshake” and said, “I want you to know that I want to hug you so bad right now, but I know that if I do I’ll just want more.”

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Tyson mentioned the wine and cheese incident in his Facebook post.

“In the final week of shooting, with just a few days left, as a capstone of our friendship, I invited her to wine & cheese at my place upon dropping me off from work. No pressure. I serve wine & cheese often to visitors. And I even alerted her that others from the production were gathering elsewhere that evening, so she could just drop me off and head straight there or anywhere elsewhere,” he wrote.

He went on to say that “she freely chose to come by for wine & cheese” and he “was delighted.”

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He continued: “In the car, we had started a long conversation that could continue unabated. Production days are long. We arrived late, but she was on her way home two hours later. 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,” he wrote.

He said that at their “last meeting in my office” he apologized and 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,” he wrote.

“I note that her final gesture to me was the offer of a hug, which I accepted as a parting friend,” Tyson said.

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A third woman, Tchiya Amet, alleged Tyson of raping her in 1984 while they were attending the University of Texas as graduate students.

She filed a police report in 2014 but it was not investigated because of the state’s 10-year statute of limitations on sexual assault charges.

Tyson denied Amet’s allegations in the Facebook post and said they had no “chemistry.”

“In any claim, evidence matters,” he wrote on Facebook. “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.”

Tyson was host of Cosmos on Fox in 2014 and a new edition of the series was to air on National Geographic next year.

Posted by Neil deGrasse Tyson on Saturday, December 1, 2018

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In a statement, the producers of Cosmos said: “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.”

They said they will conduct a thorough investigation. Meanwhile, Fox and National Geographic said Friday evening that they only recently learned of the allegations and were reviewing the allegations.

Besides numerous TV appearances, Tyson is also the director of the Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City.

If you or someone you know is experiencing abuse or is involved in an abusive situation, please visit the Canadian Resource Centre for Victims of Crime for help. They are also reachable toll-free at 1-877-232-2610.

— With files from the Associated Press

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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