In a series of stunning allegations, three women have accused scientist and celebrity Neil deGrasse Tyson of sexual assault.
Freelance journalist David G. McAfee spoke to the women who made the accusations.
Dr. Katelyn N. Allers, Associate Professor of Physics and Astronomy at Bucknell University, told McAfee that Tyson felt her up at a party for the American Astronomical Society in 2009.
“Tyson was there, and he was dancing and drinking and all of that at the party, so a friend and I decided to get pictures with him,” she said.
They had taken two pictures together when the scientists decided to get personal with her, she alleged.
“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… and then he looked for Pluto, and followed the tattoo into my dress,” she said.
She told McAfee that she felt the incident did not rise to the level of assault as it was done in public and, she said AAS did not have a way to report that behavior at the time.
She said if the incident occurred today she would have reported it.
Allers did tell Dr. Michele Thornley, an associate professor of physics and astronomy at Bucknell in 2013 when Tyson was scheduled to speak there, McAfee confirmed.
“Yes, Katelyn spoke to me about her earlier incident–I don’t think we discussed exactly what year it happened, but I knew that it was a few years earlier than our conversations about the matter. Katelyn described the earlier incident to me in the fall of 2013, after she was invited to attend a dinner with Dr. Tyson when he was to be on campus in spring 2014 as a speaker in Bucknell’s “Tech/no” series,” she said.
“ I had recently served on a university committee with one of the organizers of the series, so I arranged to meet with that person and indicated privately that Katelyn did not wish to attend the dinner, and spoke in general terms the reasons why. At that time, Katelyn expressed that she did not want to pursue the issue more publicly (e.g., broadly inform the organizing committee, or try to get the invitation to speak withdrawn), so I talked with the organizer privately about two things: (1) to be sure that Katelyn was no longer expected at dinner, and (2) some general recommendations to avoid having female students meeting with him in small groups without additional members of the community present,” she told McAfee.
Allers said “I think that he is someone that could use his position of fame and power in a way to try and take advantage.”
Another woman, Tyson’s former assistant Ashley Watson, said she had to quit her job due to Tyson’s inappropriate behavior.
McAfee reported what Watson described to him as Tyson pressuring her into a sexual situation.
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 underlying 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.
She says Tyson soon brought out a cutting board and a knife to cut blocks of cheese that he decided they would share. But before slicing the snack, he allegedly gestured toward her with the knife and made a comment about stabbing.
Watson says she took the comment as a bad joke, but it’s important to note that this type of “joke” is exactly what people in power need to keep in mind when dealing with subordinates. And it set the stage for a night filled with subtle intimidation and sexual advances
Watson says Tyson started talking about how every human being needs certain “releases” in life, including physical releases. He reportedly mentioned how difficult it had been for him to be away from home for several months.
Watson says Tyson asked her if she needed any releases, and she responded with a story about sexual harassment she endured in the past. It was a smart way to diffuse a tense situation, but she says he was unfazed.
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.”
Watson says she left Tyson’s apartment quickly after the inappropriate sexual comments and that, the next day, she confronted him because she felt he had betrayed her as a mentor. He reportedly told her in that meeting that she’d never rise through the ranks in her career because she was too “distracting.”
Watson did report the incident prior to quitting her position.
These two allegations follow the allegations of a musician, Tchiya Amet, who described an incident when she alleges she and Tyson were grad students together and, according to her, he raped her in his apartment.
She said Tyson had given her water and she passed out and “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 claimed that she did not report it because “I didn’t tell anybody because when I had been an undergrad, I had some issues of molestation by a student and a faculty member, and when I went to report it to the authorities, they both told me not to say anything because it would ruin the person’s life.”
She said when she confronted Tyson about the rape he told her that they were “in this together.”
She said she confronted Tyson in front of a live audience in 2010 at a NOVA event.
“I didn’t know if anybody would hear me, but I said, ‘Today is national sexual assault awareness day in national sexual assault awareness month and I’m here because when I was a grad student at UT Austin in 1984 you raped me,’” she told McAfee.