Neil deGrasse Tyson will keep his job as director of the American Museum of Natural History’s Hayden Planetarium following an investigation into three incidents of alleged sexual misconduct. Two women had accused Tyson of unwanted sexual attention while a third accused Tyson of drugging and raping her in 1984 when they were graduate students together in Texas.
“The museum’s investigation into allegations concerning Neil deGrasse Tyson is complete,” a museum spokeswoman told the website Patheos in a statement. “Based on the results of the investigation, Dr. Tyson remains an employee and director of the Hayden Planetarium. Because this is a confidential personnel matter, there will be no further statements by the museum.”
The details of the investigation were not shared with any news outlets. Tyson had previously said that he would cooperate with the investigation, but he has yet to comment publicly about the investigation’s closure, which was announced over the weekend.
Ashley Watson, one of Tyson’s former production assistants, alleged that Tyson tried to pressure her into having sex in 2018 and ultimately quit her job over the behavior. Watson told Patheos that Tyson had “predatory tendencies” and had made misogynistic comments on different occasions.
Tyson acknowledged an incident with Watson in a Facebook post he published in December 2018 titled “On Being Accused.” Tyson said that he had invited Watson to his place for wine and cheese, and while she accepted she had been made to feel uncomfortable. Tyson says that he “apologized profusely” once he was later aware that she wasn’t comfortable in the situation and said that there was no attempt to have sex.
Another accusation came from Dr. Katelyn N. Allers, an associate professor of Physics and Astronomy at Bucknell University, who told Patheos that Tyson groped her in 2009 at an after-party for the American Astronomical Society. Tyson was looking at one of Allers’s astronomy-themed tattoos in search of Pluto and while she said the incident wasn’t “assault” it was “creepy behavior.”
“My experience with him is he’s not someone who has great respect for female bodily autonomy,” Allers told Patheos last year. Photos from the event showing Allers and Tyson together were posted on social media.
Tyson’s 2018 Facebook post acknowledged the incident but denied that it could be characterized as “groping.”
“I only just learned (nine years after) that she thought this behavior creepy,” Tyson 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. 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.”
But as for the rape allegation from 1984, Tyson said it never happened. Tyson and his accuser were both graduate students at the University of Texas-Austin at the time that the alleged rape occurred.
Tyson’s denial on Facebook insisted that while he dated the woman who had made the allegation, the claims of rape were untrue:
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. 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.
For me, what was most significant, was that in this new life, long after dropping out of astrophysics graduate school, she was posting videos of colored tuning forks endowed with vibrational therapeutic energy that she channels from the orbiting planets. As a scientist, I found this odd. Meanwhile, according to her blog posts, the drug and rape allegation comes from an assumption of what happened to her during a night that she cannot remember. It is as though a false memory had been implanted, which, because it never actually happened, had to be remembered as an evening she doesn’t remember. Nor does she remember waking up the next morning and going to the office. I kept a record of everything she posted, in case her stories morphed over time. So this is sad, which, for me, defies explanation.
Tyson will also continue to direct and host his two TV shows for National Geographic Channel, “StarTalk” and “Cosmos,” following the network’s investigation which concluded in March.