Famed astrophysicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson has been accused of raping a fellow graduate student while attending the University of Texas in Austin during the 1980s.
The allegation first surfaced in a blog post by the alleged victim four years ago, and gained further exposure last week when two other women came forward accusing Tyson, 60, of harassment in another blog covering the story. BuzzFeed reported a fourth accuser's story on Wednesday, as part of a comprehensive piece covering the alleged victims' claims.
What are the details?
Tchiya Amet says Tyson slipped a drug into her drink and raped her sometime in 1983 or 1984 at his apartment in Austin. She's written about the incident several times on her blog, and says she's suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder in the 30 years since the rape allegedly occurred. Amet dropped out of school after the alleged encounter, and blames Tyson for ending her career in the field of science.
The rest of the accusers who have come forward against Tyson claim the scientist harassed them in various "creepy" interactions.
Dr. Katelyn Allers, associate professor of Physics and Astronomy at Bucknell University, recently shared her story, saying she was "felt up" by Tyson at an after-party at an American Astronomical Society gathering in 2009. Allers says she and a friend approached Tyson for photographs, at which point the scientist took interest in her tattoo of the solar system, which could be seen on her arm and chest but was partially covered by her dress.
Allers recalled to BuzzFeed that Tyson told her he was "looking for Pluto," which "involved him reaching into my dress and sort of looking down it." She told Patheos that while she does not feel like her interaction with Tyson rose to the level of assault, it did show Tyson was capable of "creepy behavior."
Tyson's former production assistant, Ashley Watson, says she had to quit working for him after just a few months on the job this year, because he made her feel uncomfortable and made sexual references to song lyrics one evening when she joined him at his apartment for a bottle of wine.
The fourth accuser — who is unnamed — reached out to BuzzFeed to report her story, saying Tyson approached her during a 2010 holiday party for employees of the American Museum of Natural History, where he works. She recalled that Tyson was drunk, told sexual jokes and propositioned her to join him alone in his office.
How did Tyson respond?After the third accuser went public, Tyson issued a lengthy response on Facebook, addressing each alleged incident and what he recalled. He acknowledged knowing all three women who came forward, gave the details he remembered, and insisted that had he known Allers and Watson had been creeped out by his behavior, he would have apologized immediately at the time.
In response to the allegations made by Amet — who changed her name from Staci Hambric in 1995 — Tyson said the two had dated briefly during graduate school, and that he first learned of the accusations against him more than 30 years later.
"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," Tyson wrote. "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," he continued. "So this is sad, which, for me, defies explanation."
Tyson added: "I note that this allegation was used as a kind of solicitation-bait by at least one journalist to bring out of the woodwork anybody who had any encounter with me that left them uncomfortable."
FOX/NatGeo, the networks that air Tyson's Cosmos and StarTalk shows, announced they will conduct an investigation into the accusations against the host. Tyson said he welcomes the inquest.