News and Commentary

After Fourth Accuser, BuzzFeed Reveals Findings Of Years-Long Investigation Of Neil DeGrasse Tyson Claims

BuzzFeed News revealed in a report Wednesday that it has been looking into sexual misconduct allegations against Neil deGrasse Tyson for “nearly three years.” After a fourth woman came forward to level allegations against the famed astrophysicist, the outlet has now presented its findings.

“Over the course of nearly three years, BuzzFeed News has spoken with more than 30 people for this story, including the alleged victims and their families, Cosmos crew members, and graduate students and professors who were at UT Austin 30 years ago. Dozens more from that time did not reply to requests for interviews,” BuzzFeed’s Azeen Ghorayshi reports.

“Most of the people interviewed lamented the prospect that damaging allegations might take down the world’s most famous living scientist — and perhaps the most famous black scientist in history — beloved for eviscerating so many of the stereotypes of the stuffy, out-of-touch academic,” she adds. “But for [accusers Ashley] Watson and [Katelyn] Allers, the tragedy was the loss of a different black scientist: [Tchiya] Amet.”

The report, titled “Nobody Believed Neil deGrasse Tyson’s First Accuser. Now There Are Three More,” presents a summary of the three new accusations of sexual harassment against Tyson, but focuses primarily on his first accuser, Amet, who first aired her accusations in a blog post in October 2014, accusations since published by Patheos over a year ago but that went largely dismissed amid attacks on her credibility.

On Saturday, BuzzFeed spoke with the astrophysicist’s third accuser, Ashley Watson, who worked as Tyson’s driver earlier this year and said that she had not taken Amet’s accusations very seriously because of all the praise she heard about how “amazing a person” Tyson was and descriptions of Amet as a “mentally disturbed individual” who “lies for a living.” After Tyson allegedly made sexual advances toward her to the point she felt compelled to quit her job, Watson now regrets having been so dismissive of Amet’s claims.

Watson’s accusation prompted Fox Broadcasting Company and National Geographic, who produce Tyson’s hit show “Cosmos,” to announce that they are conducting an official investigation into the claims. It also triggered an official statement from NYC’s American Museum of Natural History saying they have received no complaints about him over the two decades he’s worked there, as well as a lengthy response posted on Facebook by Tyson.

In the post, Tyson apologizes for expressing his affection to the two recent accusers in ways he suggested were misunderstood while also confirming some of the details of the women’s accounts. As to Amet’s claims, he denies raping her, saying instead that the two had been “intimate” a few times while in graduate school at UT Austin. He also strongly suggested that she had likely created a “false memory” through her New Age healing techniques.

“Watson, Allers, and Amet have disputed much of Tyson’s statement,” Ghorayshi notes, while “Tyson declined multiple requests to comment on this story.”

After a fourth woman came forward accusing Tyson of having drukenly propositioned her in January 2010 while at a holiday party for employees of the American Museum of Natural History, a claim documented in a 2014 email, BuzzFeed published its detailed account of Amet’s claims:

The rape, she said, happened one day that semester, at his apartment. He gave her a drink in a cup that looked like a coconut shell, she said, which she thought was water. The next thing Amet remembers is waking up naked in Tyson’s bed, seeing him naked performing oral sex on her. When he realized she had woken up, she said, he began to penetrate her. The rest of her memory of the day is fragmented, she said.

“I came out of it for a moment and shook my head, and then I went out again,” Amet said. “The next thing I knew, I was at class the next day.”

BuzzFeed reached out to a therapist at the university Amet says she spoke to about the incident, but the therapist declined to comment. Amet’s husband, however, told BuzzFeed that “around the time he first met her in 1986, she told him something bad had happened with Tyson, and that he came up many times throughout their marriage.” He said he never heard her use the word “rape,” but “did remember that she described being drugged by Tyson, and vaguely alluded to something traumatic.”

Read the full report here.