Astrophysicist and TV host Neil deGrasse Tyson has been under investigation by the American Museum of Natural History in New York, where he is the director of the Hayden Planetarium, since four women accused him of sexual misconduct last year.
But last week, the museum announced that it had concluded its investigation and Tyson will keep his job.
“Based on the results of the investigation, Dr. Tyson remains an employee and director of the Hayden Planetarium,” the museum said in a statement to the New York Times. “Because this is a confidential personnel matter, there will be no further statements by the museum.”
For musician Tchiya Amet, who says Tyson raped her when the two were graduate students at the University of Texas Austin in 1984, the news is concerning. When she spoke out about Tyson, her biggest worry was that he would harm other women. “It doesn’t feel like people would be safe, working around him,” she told Vox.
After Amet’s allegation garnered public attention in late 2018, three other women came forward with allegations of sexual misconduct by Tyson. One, Ashley Watson, said he had made unwanted advances toward her when she worked for him on the Fox/National Geographic show Cosmos in 2018. Tyson has denied raping Amet and said he intended nothing sexual with the other women.
Fox and NatGeo also investigated the accusations, but earlier this year, they announced that Tyson would be returning to TV. With the museum investigation now concluded, he has so far faced no career consequences in connection with the allegations. And both investigations have left the women questioning whether justice was really done. In the museum investigation, Amet said, “it seemed like they were judging my character more than what happened.”
The investigations into Tyson have left the women involved with more questions than answers
The American Museum of Natural History, where Tyson has directed the planetarium since 1996, began its investigation when Amet, Watson, and the two other women came forward. One, physics and astronomy professor Katelyn Allers, says that Tyson tried to look at her tattoo under her dress and touched her in a way that made her uncomfortable at a party after a 2009 meeting of the American Astronomical Society. Another, who has remained anonymous, told BuzzFeed News that Tyson had propositioned her at a 2010 party for museum employees.
In a 2018 Facebook post, Tyson responded that he never intended to make Allers feel uncomfortable, and that his behavior toward Watson was meant to be friendly, nothing more. He has not responded publicly to the anonymous woman’s allegation, or responded to Vox’s request for comment.
Amet, meanwhile, says that during a visit to Tyson’s apartment when the two were astronomy graduate students, Tyson offered her a drink of water. The next thing she knew, he was performing oral sex on her, she said. Then he climbed on top of her and began penetrating her, she said, before she passed out again.
In his Facebook post, Tyson says the incident never happened.
When the museum investigated Amet’s allegation, an investigator spoke to her once, for two or three hours, Amet said. “They wanted a lot of details about my personal life, my sexual life,” she told Vox, including things that nothing to do with the allegation. “I guess they were trying to make my character look bad,” she said.
The museum has not responded to Vox’s request for comment. The announcement of the closure of its investigation comes several months after Fox and National Geographic, the networks that host Tyson’s shows StarTalk and Cosmos, concluded their own separate investigations.
In March, the networks released a statement saying, “The investigation is complete, and we are moving forward with both StarTalk and Cosmos.” StarTalk returned to TV in April; Cosmos has not yet aired. The investigations do not prevent the women from bringing legal action against Tyson at a later date.
The women involved commented on a lack of transparency in the networks’ investigations. “I can’t really comment on conclusions of the investigation, because I don’t know what the investigation concluded or if any further actions are being taken,” Allers told Vox in March. She also told the New York Times that the investigations did not seem thorough, and that she spoke to representatives of each network for half an hour.
After the Fox and National Geographic investigations, Watson decided not to participate in the museum investigation. “They contacted me months after I had already spoken with two other investigators from Fox and NatGeo,” she told Vox in an email. “I was emotionally exhausted, felt humiliated, and was desperately trying to move on with my life.”
Watson isn’t surprised Tyson is keeping his job. But “I wish the general public would understand that just because he’s ‘cleared’ doesn’t mean he didn’t do it,” she said.
The museum investigation, as well as those at Fox and National Geographic, are just a few among many internal investigations conducted by companies in response to sexual misconduct allegations in recent years. In several high-profile cases, those investigations have led to accused men keeping their jobs while accusers voiced concerns about the process. For example, Suzie Hardy, who said that TV host Ryan Seacrest had assaulted her, wrote that NBC investigators failed to interview witnesses she provided and did not share their findings with her.
Meanwhile, Amet, who is black, believes her claims would have been taken more seriously if she were white. “If Neil deGrasse Tyson had raped a white woman, he would not be on TV anymore, and this woman would have received a settlement,” she tweeted last week.
Today, she is trying to move on from her experience with Tyson. “I’m still allowing it to hold me back,” she said. “I’ve got find a way beyond it.”
And when it comes to Tyson himself, “I think it’s disgusting that people still watch the shows and support the institutions that provide his salary,” Amet said.
“The only way things will really change,” she said, “is if we pull out our dollars.”