Saturday I wrote about the allegations of sexual harassment and rape which have been leveled against scientist Neil deGrasse Tyson. At the time, Tyson had refused to comment about any of the allegations when asked by media outlets. However, the same day Tyson broke his silence and offered a response on Facebook to all three of the allegations.

Tyson apologizes for the first incident which involved Dr. Katelyn N. Allers, a professor of physics at Bucknell University. Dr. Allers said Tyson became a bit too intrusive when he discovered a tattoo of the solar system on her arm. She claimed Tyson, “looked for Pluto, and followed the tattoo into my dress. For his part, Tyson doesn’t really deny any of this, but apologizes if he gave Dr. Allers a bad feeling:

She was wearing a sleeveless dress with a tattooed solar system extending up her arm. And while I don’t explicitly remember searching for Pluto at the top of her shoulder, it is surely something I would have done in that situation…

I only just learned (nine years after) that she thought this behavior creepy. That was never my intent and I’m deeply sorry to have made her feel that way. Had I been told of her discomfort in the moment, I would have offered this same apology eagerly, and on the spot. In my mind’s eye, I’m a friendly and accessible guy, but going forward, I can surely be more sensitive to people’s personal space, even in the midst of my planetary enthusiasm.

The second incident involved a young woman assistant named Ashley Watson who claims Tyson invited her to his apartment and made some suggestive comments to her. For instance, Watson claims Tyson sang romantic music and then began discussing human beings need for “releases” in life. Tyson goes into greater length in his response, admitting he invited the woman to his apartment but glossing over some of the contents of the conversation:

She is a talented, warm and friendly person — excellent traits for morale on a high pressure production. Practically everyone she knows on set gets a daily welcome-hug from her. I expressly rejected each hug offered frequently during the Production. But in its place I offered a handshake, and on a few occasions, clumsily declared, “If I hug you I might just want more.” My intent was to express restrained but genuine affection.

In the final week of shooting, with just a few days left, as a capstone of our friendship, I invited her to wine & cheese at my place upon dropping me off from work. No pressure. I serve wine & cheese often to visitors. And I even alerted her that others from the production were gathering elsewhere that evening, so she could just drop me off and head straight there or anywhere elsewhere. She freely chose to come by for wine & cheese and I was delighted. In the car, we had started a long conversation that could continue unabated. Production days are long. We arrived late, but she was on her way home two hours later.

Afterwards, she came into my office to told me she was creeped out by the wine & cheese evening. She viewed the invite as an attempt to seduce her, even though she sat across the wine & cheese table from me, and all conversation had been in the same vein as all other conversations we ever had.

It doesn’t sound like Watson believed the conversation at the apartment was the same as all the other conversations she’d had with Tyson. The hint Tyson seems to have missed is that she showed up to his office to tell him she’d been creeped out by it. Tyson says Watson accepted his apology but maintains he was completely unaware she was uncomfortable at the time. So, once again, Tyson is basically admitting to everything the accuser says happened but denying any bad intent.

The final accusation is the one that involves a rape which supposedly took place when Tyson was a grad student in the 1980s.  Tchiya Amet says Tyson invited her to his apartment and that after drinking some water she passed out and woke up naked with Tyson performing a sex act on her. Here again, Tyson doesn’t so much deny the accusation as re-characterize it:

While in graduate school I had several girlfriends, one of whom would become my wife of thirty years, a mathematical physicist — we met in Relativity class. Over this time I had a brief relationship with a fellow astro-graduate student, from a more recent entering class. I remember being intimate only a few times, all at her apartment, but the chemistry wasn’t there. So the relationship faded quickly. There was nothing otherwise odd or unusual about this friendship…

More than thirty years later, as my visibility-level took another jump, I read a freshly posted blog accusing me of drugging and raping a woman I did not recognize by either photo or name. Turned out to be the same person who I dated briefly in graduate school. She had changed her name and lived an entire life, married with children, before this accusation.

For me, what was most significant, was that in this new life, long after dropping out of astrophysics graduate school, she was posting videos of colored tuning forks endowed with vibrational therapeutic energy that she channels from the orbiting planets. As a scientist, I found this odd. Meanwhile, according to her blog posts, the drug and rape allegation comes from an assumption of what happened to her during a night that she cannot remember. It is as though a false memory had been implanted, which, because it never actually happened, had to be remembered as an evening she doesn’t remember. Nor does she remember waking up the next morning and going to the office. I kept a record of everything she posted, in case her stories morphed over time. So this is sad, which, for me, defies explanation.

It sounds as if Tyson is claiming he had sex with this woman “a few times” when she was briefly his girlfriend. That’s not something I got from the phone interview with Amet. On the contrary, she said she had only had sex a couple of times before when the incident with Tyson happened. She did not seem to be saying she’d ever had sex with him before that time or after.

Tyson’s description of what he found looking at Amet’s blog seems to be an attempt to suggest she’s not credible, i.e. she believes in “vibrational therapeutic energy.” According to Amet, some of her changes in outlook were the result of her experiences in grad school, including the incident with Tyson. In other words, if she seems a bit outside the norm maybe there’s a reason she’s that way.

Of everything Tyson wrote, the oddest bit is his description of her allegation as an “assumption” about things she “cannot remember.” That’s not a very accurate portrayal of what Amet has claimed. When she wrote about this on her blog in 2014 for the first time, she wrote this:

What would you say to my parents if I had told them when it had happened that you had slipped me a mickey and that you raped me while I was unconscious? What would you say to them now if they were still alive? What will you say to your wife, the woman that was on the phone as you handed me the water to drink, in a cup made out of account shell? Do you have any idea how your act of violence affected my life, the lives of my parents, my ex-husband, my daughters, and anyone and veryone that has anything to do with me?…

The ONLY way you could EVER be with a Black Goddess, a true Celestial Being, not just one that talks about them, would be by DRUGGING HER, THEN DRAGGING HER TO YOUR BEDROOM, WHILE FULLY UNCONSCIOUS, TAKING OFF HER CLOTHES, AND THEN, WHO KNOWS WHAT WITH HER, OR FOR HOW LONG, WHEN SHE AWAKENS, UNABLE TO MOVE, YOU CONTINUE YOUR DEMONIC ACTS. Is this what you mean by curiosity?

I only recall being at the astronomy department the next day. I do not know how long I was in his apartment. I have no idea how I got back to my apartment. I do not even remember waking up the next day. All I remember is seeing him in the hallway at the astronomy department at UT Austin, and I asked him, “Why did this happen?” He responded, “We are in this alone, and we are in this together”.

That’s pretty clearly a claim of that she was drugged and raped. She mentions waking up briefly, being unable to move and says Tyson continued his “demonic acts.” In a more recent interview, she said this: “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.”

It’s odd that Tyson doesn’t really address the key part of her allegation in his rebuttal, i.e. that she was drugged. He uses the word in passing but doesn’t seem to think this might constitute an explanation for her not remembering everything that happened. But now that Tyson has responded, I guess we’ll see what his accusers, especially Amet, have to say in response.