On a day when the allegations of sexual misconduct against him went well beyond one blog, Neil deGrasse Tyson responded tonight by offering his version of the stories against him because he “cannot continue to stay silent.” He said two of the accusations were gestures that were misinterpreted while the most serious allegation (of rape) was not true. He also welcomed further investigation of his conduct.
He concluded his lengthy post with this:
I’m the accused, so why believe anything I say? Why believe me at all?
That brings us back to the value of an independent investigation, which FOX/NatGeo (the networks on which Cosmos and StarTalk air) announced that they will conduct. I welcome this.
Accusations can damage a reputation and a marriage. Sometimes irreversibly. I see myself as loving husband and as a public servant — a scientist and educator who serves at the will of the public. I am grateful for the support I’ve received from those who continue to respect and value me and my work.
Without going into detail about the specifics, which you can read in summary here, the question I think the rest of us ought to be asking ourselves is where we go from here.
Personally, I want the companies that employ him to conduct a thorough, independent investigation. I want to see if they uncover more corroborating evidence or reason to reject the stories reported by my colleague David McAfee. I want them to take the investigation seriously and react in kind regardless of what they find.
All of his employers said they would do just that, though they didn’t go into detail about how.
Perhaps the most frustrating thing from an outsider’s perspective is that no investigation will be concluded immediately. To fill that void, people will likely, without more information, rush to denounce Tyson or denounce the women. That doesn’t help. The New York Times article ends with a powerful line from Ann Druyan, who was married to Carl Sagan and now serves as an executive producer and director of Cosmos:
“I’m sick about this,” Ms. Druyan said. “The core of our shows is that it matters what’s true. No matter what, that means we will absolutely follow the evidence where it leads.”
That’s really all we can ask for.
Incidentally, I asked David for his thoughts on Tyson’s response. His thoughts echoed those of Druyan:
I reached out to Tyson several times before reporting my original stories, so it’s nice to see his side of all this finally out on the table. My only hope is that a fair and thorough investigation uncovers the truth in this unfortunate case.