The Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History announced today that Neil deGrasse Tyson will keep his job following an investigation into allegations of sexual misconduct — which he denied.
“The museum’s investigation into allegations concerning Neil deGrasse Tyson is complete,” a museum spokeswoman said in a brief statement. “Based on the results of the investigation, Dr. Tyson remains an employee and director of the Hayden Planetarium. Because this is a confidential personnel matter, there will be no further statements by the museum.”
A separate investigation by Fox Broadcasting and National Geographic came to the same conclusion back in March.
That likely puts an end to the situation that first gained traction on Patheos. (Tyson issued a public denial in December, saying he would offer his “full cooperation” in any “impartial investigation.”)
Many people concerned about the allegations weren’t satisfied when Fox and NatGeo said they were done investigating in large part because the networks had a lot riding on Tyson’s reputation. They had already filmed episodes, so if they didn’t air them, it was money down the drain.
But the planetarium’s investigation was perceived as more objective, so perhaps any lingering doubts about Tyson will now be put to rest.
Fox had postponed the premiere of COSMOS: Possible Worlds and National Geographic said it would remove StarTalk from its schedule while investigators looked further into the allegations, but even after they announced their investigation was over, the shows remained off the schedule. I doubt that’ll be the case much longer.
So what did the planetarium’s investigation find? We don’t know.
Did they uncover corroborating information, or hear additional stories from women, or learn anything that wasn’t already public? We don’t know.
Did they make the report public? Not a chance.
Earlier this year, the women who made the allegations said they were contacted by and spoke with investigators for the networks. At least one said she was also contacted by the planetarium — and that their investigators followed up by contacting witnesses that she told them to talk to. But that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re happy with the results.
Dr. [Katelyn N.] Allers said she did not find the results of the museum’s investigation surprising — “This is kind of the way the world works,” she said — but added that there was no good possible outcome either way.
“Any time this comes up in the news — I’m sure it will, even with this outcome — I get bombarded with emails and phone calls that are pretty hateful and kind of scary,” Dr. Allers said. She said she hoped the museum was “taking steps to make sure behavior like this doesn’t continue to occur.”
Another person who alleged Tyson raped her in college — he says they dated briefly and that everything was consensual — was furious with the outcome.
“If Neil deGrasse Tyson had raped a white woman, he would not be on TV anymore, and this woman would have received a settlement,” Ms. [Tchiya Amet el Maat], who is black, said in a statement.
A third women said she did not participate in the investigation, though she was asked to do so.
Ultimately, we’re left with a popular figure who has harassment allegations swirling around him, but no independent confirmation of the victims’ stories (despite two separate investigations). That doesn’t mean the women were lying, but that Tyson’s employers don’t think Tyson is guilty of wrongdoing to the point where he needs to be fired.
As his shows come back on the air, barring any further allegations, I suspect the asterisk on his name will fade away, especially as Tyson returns to the public eye and becomes known, once again, for his ability to excite people about science. Whether that’s a good thing depends on how much faith you have in the investigations and how much you believe those allegations.
(Portions of this article were published earlier)