Appearing at NJPAC for a scheduled event, Neil deGrasse Tyson again denied claims of sexual misconduct from several women.
Tyson took the stage at Prudential Hall on Wednesday night just days after sexual misconduct allegations first surfaced and less than two hours after BuzzFeed News reported another accuser had come forward.
The astrophysicist and TV host addressed the claims at the beginning of the Newark event, reading segments from a lengthy post he shared on Facebook on Dec. 1.
“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,” he said. “Emotions bypass due-process, people choose sides, and the social media wars begin. In any claim, evidence matters. Evidence always matters. But what happens when it’s just one person’s word against another’s, and the stories don’t agree?”
The crowd raucously cheered after Tyson read from his statement, before the scientist launched into a nearly two-hour talk on collisions in space. It was just his second public event since the scandal broke.
Loved learning about “Cosmic Collisions” from @neiltyson! @NJPAC pic.twitter.com/7YD7Y4Ckod
— John Yi (@chemisteryi) December 6, 2018
One of the women who has accused Tyson alleges that he raped her when they were graduate students at the University of Texas in Austin.
Tyson, 60, is director of the Hayden Planetarium in New York and host of the Fox series “Cosmos,” which will return next year on National Geographic.
He spoke at NJPAC just after BuzzFeed News published the results of an almost three-year investigation that revealed allegations from the fourth woman, who chose to remain anonymous.
The woman claims that she had been at a holiday party with her boyfriend in 2010 at the American Museum of Natural History, which is home to the planetarium. She told BuzzFeed that Tyson appeared drunk and was making sexual jokes when he approached her, asking if she would come to his office alone.
She provided an email from 2014 in which she related the account to her employer to explain why she didn’t want to collaborate with the scientist.
Fox and National Geographic have said they are investigating the previous three allegations against Tyson, two of which first came to light on Patheos.com. This newest accuser said she was moved to come forward after hearing about the investigation.
BuzzFeed spoke to more than 30 people for its story on the Tyson allegations, including the women who have made allegations, “Cosmos” crew members, and students and professors from the University of Texas.
The famous scientist had posted a detailed statement on his Facebook page, saying he would cooperate fully with the investigation. In the post, he addressed allegations leveled against him by three women.
Tyson denied that he groped or “felt up” Katelyn Allers, a physics and astronomy professor at Bucknell University who claims Tyson pawed her dress in 2009 to see her solar system tattoo, calling the encounter “creepy.” Tyson said it was “simply a search under the covered part of her shoulder of the sleeveless dress.”
“I only just learned (nine years after) that she thought this behavior creepy,” he continued. “That was never my intent and I’m deeply sorry to have made her feel that way.”
Tyson also denied that he made sexual advances toward Ashley Watson, who worked with him as a production assistant, at a wine and cheese gathering in his home this past summer. On the Patheos blog, Watson claims that Tyson had made misogynistic comments and kept a list of overweight actresses on his phone to prove it was untrue that women feel societal pressure to be skinny.
In the BuzzFeed story, she says that Tyson took off some clothes and played a Nina Simone song, focusing on the line “do I make you quiver.”
“Afterwards, she came into my office to told me she was creeped out by the wine & cheese evening,” Tyson said on Facebook, denying he had touched her apart from a handshake and a hug, saying their conversation was the same as usual. Tyson said he apologized, but that the assistant quit her job working with him.
Watson told BuzzFeed that after an awkwardly long handshake that Tyson called a “Native American handshake,” he held her shoulders and said, “I want to hug you so bad right now, but I know that if I do, I’ll just want more.” She says she was forced to quit because of Tyson’s advances.
Tyson also addressed the rape allegation, saying that in the 1980s, he had been intimate several times with Tchiya Amet, who blogged about her claim, when they were graduate students in astrophysics at UT Austin. She alleges that Tyson drugged and assaulted her, but he casted doubt on her assessment of events because she said she couldn’t fully recall what happened. Tyson also treated Amet’s accusation with skepticism because of her New Age beliefs.
“I note that this allegation was used as a kind of solicitation-bait by at least one journalist to bring out of the woodwork anybody who had any encounter with me that left them uncomfortable,” he said in the Facebook post.
In the BuzzFeed story, Amet says she was friends with Tyson but doesn’t remember ever being intimate with him before the alleged rape, and that the alleged assault is part of what made her decide to drop out of her graduate program. Allers and Watson say they were moved to come forward with their allegations after hearing about Amet’s claims and witnessing how she was not believed.
“I saw that her credibility was being questioned in a way that honestly had a lot of racist and sexist and anti-religious undertones,” Allers told BuzzFeed. “I kinda figured if I had any credibility to lend to that so that she’s taken more seriously, I should do that.”
Elsewhere in his Facebook statement, Tyson seemed to attempt a scientific remove.
“I’m the accused, so why believe anything I say?” he said. “Why believe me at all?”
Tyson is scheduled to appear at Asbury Park Convention Hall on Thursday.
NJ Advance Media reporter Jeremy Schneider contributed to this report.
Amy Kuperinsky may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @AmyKup or on Facebook.
At N.J. show, Neil deGrasse Tyson again denies misconduct claims as 4th accuser comes forward