Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson is well-known for his educational television appearances and hosting “Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey“, but he recently appeared somewhere less expected: the cover of the conservative magazine National Review.

Image source: screengrab via Mediaite

Image source: screengrab via Mediaite

On Friday, HBO “Real Time” host Bill Maher asked Tyson about the magazine cover and speculated that conservatives don’t like Tyson because of his race.

“I think the reason they don’t like you is [that] you’re a scientist — and a black one — who’s smarter than they are,” Maher said.

But the diplomatic Tyson didn’t take the race bait, instead theorizing that conservatives might be expressing “jealousy” that “the nerd set” tends to vote for Democrats.

Maher tried again, seemingly in an attempt to get Tyson to bash the GOP, saying that conservatives seem to reject the feeling of cosmic insignificance generated by Tyson’s exploration of the stars, but again, Tyson demurred and spoke positively about the joy of scientific discovery.

In the past, Tyson has contradicted the common charge that the GOP is anti-science.

“Funding for science under Republican administrations has been historically higher than under Democrats,” Tyson noted in early 2009, praising former President George W. Bush’s science investments.

On the other hand, Tyson (who doesn’t believe in God but also doesn’t like the label “atheist”) has decried religious opposition to certain scientific theories and turned a critical eye towards Republican-backed science education.

Watch the “Real Time” segment here:

(H/T: Mediaite)

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