Really, Neil DeGrasse Tyson?
Today in why we should never place any heavy bets on which notable men we don't think will get accused of being sex creeps news, astronomer Neil DeGrasse Tyson has been accused of sexual harassment by two women in his field. Of course, this doesn't come as that much of a surprise, as musician Tchiya Amet has long asserted that she was drugged and raped by Tyson when they were in graduate school together at the University of Texas, Austin.
Fox and the producer's of DeGrasse's show Cosmos are investigating allegations made earlier this week in a report by David G. McAfee on the Patheos blog No Sacred Cows.
"The credo at the heart of 'Cosmos' is to follow the evidence wherever it leads," the producers said in a joint statement. "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."
Fox Broadcasting also issued a statement, saying, "We have only just become aware of the recent allegations regarding Neil deGrasse Tyson. We take these matters very seriously and we are reviewing the recent reports."
The first accusation is from fellow astronomer Dr. Katelyn N. Allers of Bucknell University, who told McAfee that Tyson groped her at a 2009 event, and the second comes from DeGrasse's former assistant, Ashley Watson, who claims she had to quit her job because DeGrasse would not cease making inappropriate sexual advances towards her.
Per No Sacred Cows:
Watson says she had been working directly under Tyson, who called out Trump in 2016 by saying he would grab him by the crotch when they met, and that they got along well. That all changed, however, when he invited his underling to his apartment at around 10:30 P.M. to "share a bottle of wine" and "unwind for a couple of hours."
Watson, who said she felt pressured to impress her superstar boss, told me she agreed to come in for a glass of wine instead. Upon entering his apartment, Tyson allegedly took off his shoes and shirt, remaining in a tank top undershirt. Unfortunately, the night only got more awkward as Tyson, who is married, reportedly put on romantic music and replayed the most graphic parts.
In another incident:
She was getting up to leave when Neil allegedly stopped her, saying he wanted to show her a "Native American handshake" he knew. That involved holding hands tightly, making eye contact, and feeling for each other's pulse, Watson told me.
When she broke off the awkward and incredibly intimate handshake, which he allegedly said represented a "spirit connection," she attempted to just get up and leave.
Tyson then allegedly put his hands on her shoulders, and said he wanted to hug her, but if he did, he'd "just want more."
Ew. Yeah. That is not a thing you say to people you work with. He also reportedly told her that she wouldn't get very far in her career on account of how "distracting" she was. Also gross.
Tyson reported the incidents to her one of her superiors and informed him that she intended to quit but also hoped they wouldn't hire any more female assistants for DeGrasse, and said supervisor supported her decision to quit but advised her to say she was doing so due to a "family emergency." Nice!
I feel like saying that (if these allegations are true) "Neil DeGrasse Tyson is a very smart person who should know better" -- but really, you don't have to be a literal genius to figure out that you shouldn't touch women without their permission and you shouldn't hit on your assistant. These are obvious things.
I learned a while ago to stop making mental "OK, well HE would never" lists -- right around the time Ben Vereen, whom I so loved and admired all my life, was accused of sexual assault. The fact is, as much as it can feel like we "know" celebrities, we don't. We don't actually know what they would or would not do.
Except, please god, for Mr. Rogers.
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Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse