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DeGrasse Tyson Accused of Sexual Assault, Rape

Fox, National Geographic are investigating
By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 1, 2018 2:30 PM CST

(Newser) – Next up, Neil deGrasse Tyson? The world-famous astrophysicist is under investigation after two women claimed he behaved inappropriately with them—and an old rape claim re-emerged online, Deadline reports. Fox and National Geographic, the networks behind his show Cosmos, have joined the show's producers in investigating the two more recent claims. "The credo at the heart of Cosmos is to follow the evidence wherever it leads," the producers say. "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 a report this week by journalist and author David McAfee, Tyson is accused of feeling up an associate professor and trying to pressure his then-assistant into sex. For more:

  • The tattoo: Dr. Katelyn Allers, an associate professor of physics and astronomy at Bucknell University, says she and Tyson were at an after-party for the American Astronomical Society (AAS) in 2009 when Tyson explored a solar-system tattoo on her arm and "followed the tattoo into my dress," per Allers. "My experience with him is he’s not someone who has great respect for female bodily autonomy." McAfee's blog includes photos.

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  • "Like talking to a wall": Ex-Tyson assistant Ashley Watson recalls him inviting her to his place, where he made "misogynistic comments" and tried pressuring her into sex. Tyson, who is married, allegedly told her people need physical "releases" and said it was hard being away from home for long stretches. Watson says he held her in a long "Native American handshake" to feel each other's pulses and tried hugging her. Dissuading him was hard: "It was like talking to a wall," she says.
  • Telling others: Allers didn't report the incident—the AAS had no harassment-reporting mechanism at the time—but she apparently told a colleague, and Watson told a superior who suggested she lie about her reason for quitting.
  • Rape allegation: Musician Tchiya Amet says Tyson drugged and raped her in 1984 when they were grad students at the University of Texas in Austin, per Patheos (school records show they attended at the same time). Amet says he offered her water at his place and she woke up to the alleged assault. "I woke up in his bed; I was naked… When he saw that I had woken up, he got on top of me and mounted me, and I passed out again," she says. (Hear Amet tell her story.)
  • A public allegation: Amet says she publicly accused him of rape at a NOVA event in California in 2010. "...I'm here because when I was a grad student at UT Austin in 1984 you raped me," she recalls saying. Amet has spoken and blogged about her allegation for years and says she filed a police report. The statute of limitations has expired, but that could be voided if other victims speak up.
  • Tyson's defenders: Certain commentators have criticized or minimized Amet's allegation, notes Patheos. An atheist website stressed that "People can and do lie," while skeptic writer PZ Myers said "slymepitters" are "trying to deploy this woman as a weapon" and called her supporting evidence "terribly weak."
  • "How does it feel": Amet says she dropped out of UT Austin and abandoned astronomy after the assault, according to a journalist's blog. She's quoted as saying of Tyson, "How does it feel to know that YOU are the reason there is one less black female galactic astronomer on this planet?"
See what happened after women were illegally charged up to $3,000 for rape kits. (Read more rape stories.)

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