4 Women Accused Neil deGrasse Tyson Of Sexual Misconduct — Here's What We Know
In April 2010, Tchiya Amet confronted astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson in a theater, and alleged that he had drugged and raped her when they were both at the University of Texas at Austin in the 1980s. In an exhaustive BuzzFeed News report, Amet said she repeated these allegations multiple times in following years but was not widely believed. However, Amet's story is once again getting attention, because recently, three more women have accused Tyson of sexual misconduct. Tyson has denied some of their allegations, and Bustle has reached out to him for comment.
At the end of November, Katelyn Allers, an associate professor at Bucknell University, and Ashley Watson, a former assistant to Tyson, both spoke to Patheos to go public with allegations of sexual misconduct against Tyson. According to Vox, their stories didn't immediately generate controversy in the way that other #MeToo-era allegations have.
On Thursday, however, BuzzFeed News published a detailed story — after nearly three years of reporting — about the allegations against Tyson, including from a fourth, unnamed woman who alleged that Tyson had sexually harassed her at a holiday party in 2010. Tyson denied the allegations from Amet — now a therapist, musician, and wellness coach — Allers, and Watson in a lengthy Facebook post published on Saturday, in which he recounted his own version of events and wrote that he would welcome an investigation. He has not yet responded to the fourth woman's allegations. Below is a breakdown of each woman's allegations, as well as responses from Tyson's employers.
After confronting Tyson at a public appearance in San Francisco back in 2010, Amet wrote about her allegations on her personal blog in 2014 and on Twitter in 2016. Patheos' David McAfee wrote about Amet's accusations in 2017, and published an interview with her last month.
According to McAfee, Amet — who was then named Staci Hambric — alleged that Tyson assaulted her at his apartment one day in 1984, when they were both graduate students at the University of Texas at Austin. She told McAfee that Tyson had offered her water, and that she had "accepted a liquid in a cup made out of a coconut shell."
According to Vox, Amet alleged that Tyson had drugged her, and that when she briefly regained consciousness, she recalled Tyson performing oral sex on her. When Tyson noticed that Amet was awake, Vox reported, Amet alleged that he raped her, before she once again passed out. The next thing she remembered, Amet told McAfee, was seeing Tyson in the hallway the following day.
Tyson denied Amet's allegations in his Facebook post, titled "On Being Accused." In this post, he wrote that he had been in a brief relationship with a fellow graduate student, which "faded quickly." He wrote that he did not frequently see her following their relationship, and that when he did see her a few years later, he learned that she was pregnant and dropped out of graduate school. When he learned of her allegations "more than thirty years later," Tyson claimed that the incident "never actually happened" because Amet — who had changed her name in 1995 — could not remember details from that day.
"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," Tyson wrote. "Nor does she remember waking up the next morning and going to the office."
Amet disputed this statement, according to BuzzFeed News, and attempted to hold Tyson accountable for damaging her dreams of becoming the first black woman astronaut.
According to BuzzFeed News, Watson got a job earlier this year driving Tyson to and from the set of his hit show, Cosmos. She hoped that this job would provide her with useful industry connections and help her achieve her dream of becoming a Hollywood producer. Tyson soon promoted Watson to be his assistant, BuzzFeed News reported, and she met multiple members of his family.
Watson told BuzzFeed News that on May 16, she was driving Tyson home when he invited her over to "unwind" over a bottle of wine. They spent a couple of hours together, BuzzFeed News reported, and Watson alleged that Tyson made sexual references to song lyrics, and held her wrist to feel her "spirit connection." As she was leaving, she alleged that Tyson told her, “I want to hug you so bad right now, but I know that if I do, I’ll just want more.”
In response to Watson's allegations, Tyson wrote on Facebook that he had not pressured her into coming over, and claimed that he did not touch her until he shook her hand as she was leaving. The handshake that made Watson uncomfortable, Tyson wrote, was one that he had learned "from a Native elder on reservation land ... to feel the other person’s vital spirit energy."
Tyson described Watson as "a talented, warm and friendly person" who offered everyone a daily hug while on set. Tyson wrote that he rejected her hugs, and admitted that he did say “if I hug you I might just want more" on a few occasions. However, Tyson wrote that he had "apologized profusely" to Watson when she approached him after the alleged incident, and that he "would have apologized on the spot" had he known Watson was uncomfortable that evening. She accepted his apology, Tyson claimed, but nonetheless handed in her resignation.
Watson's account to BuzzFeed News was a bit different: She alleged that Tyson described her as "too distracting" to become a Hollywood producer, and she therefore did not want to continue working with him. She reported the incident to a line manager, who allegedly advised her to resign by citing a "family emergency."
In a story published by Patheos at the end of November, Allers — an associate professor of physics and astronomy at Bucknell University — told McAfee that she had been "felt up" by Tyson in 2009. She said that the alleged incident took place during an after-party for an American Astronomical Society meeting, and that Tyson groped her when she decided to take a picture with him.
"After we had taken the picture, he noticed my tattoo and kind of grabbed me to look at it, and was really obsessed about whether I had Pluto on this tattoo or not," Allers told McAfee, referring to her solar system tattoo, "and then he looked for Pluto, and followed the tattoo into my dress."
In his Facebook post, Tyson claimed that he did not "explicitly remember searching for Pluto at the top of her shoulder," though he admitted that "it is surely something I would have done in that situation." Given his history with Pluto — specifically his endorsement of Pluto's demotion from a planet to to a dwarf planet — Tyson claimed that he was merely interested to see whether Allers had included Pluto in her tattoo, and that he had conducted "a search under the covered part of her shoulder of the sleeveless dress."
"I’m deeply sorry to have made her feel that way," Tyson wrote on Facebook. "Had I been told of her discomfort in the moment, I would have offered this same apology eagerly, and on the spot."
Allers, however, described Tyson's behavior as "uncomfortable and creepy," and told McAfee that Tyson is "not someone who has great respect for female bodily autonomy." She also told BuzzFeed News that she wanted to speak up, in part, because she saw Amet's credibility "being questioned in a way that honestly had a lot of racist and sexist and anti-religious undertones."
An Unnamed Woman
After these three woman came forward with sexual misconduct allegations against Tyson, a fourth woman whose name has not been made public, told BuzzFeed News that Tyson had drunkenly approached her at an American Museum of Natural History holiday party. (Tyson currently serves as the director of the museum's Hayden Planetarium.)
This unnamed woman alleged that Tyson made sexual jokes and invited her to join him in his office. She also shared a 2014 email with BuzzFeed News, in which she told her employer about the incident in order to avoid a collaboration with Tyson.
This woman's allegations were published after Tyson wrote his Facebook post, and he has not yet responded. However, he has denied the allegations made against him by Amet, Watson, and Allers on multiple occasions — most recently at a speaking event in New Jersey on Wednesday night. At the time of writing, Tyson had not responded to Bustle's request for comment.
Responses From Tyson's Employers
In light of the multiple sexual misconduct allegations made against Tyson, Fox Broadcasting Company and National Geographic — the networks behind the Cosmos reboot— have reportedly launched an investigation. In a statement issued to Deadline on Thursday, Fox and National Geographic indicated that they "take these matters very seriously" and "are reviewing the recent reports."
“The credo at the heart of Cosmos is to follow the evidence wherever it leads,” the show’s producers told Deadline. “The producers of Cosmos can do no less in this situation. We are committed to a thorough investigation of this matter and to act accordingly as soon as it is concluded.”
In his Facebook post, Tyson wrote that he welcomed such an investigation, and argued that "accusations can damage a reputation and a marriage."
American Museum of Natural History spokesperson Anne Canty, meanwhile, told BuzzFeed News that the museum had been unaware of the fourth allegation but that staff members would look into it “to the extent we are able to ascertain the facts.”
BuzzFeed News reported that Fox and National Geographic are slated to interview Watson on Wednesday, though they reportedly have not yet contacted Amet and Allers.