Neil deGrasse Tyson, the astrophysicist who leads the Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, will keep his job, the institution said Thursday. The museum has closed an investigation into sexual misconduct accusations against him.
“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.”
Tyson was accused of behaving inappropriately with two women in an article published in November on the website Patheos.
In one instance, Katelyn N. Allers, an associate professor of physics and astronomy at Bucknell University in Pennsylvania, said she met Tyson in 2009 at a party after a gathering of the American Astronomical Society. He was examining her tattoo of the solar system, which stretches along her arm to her collarbone, and she said he followed the tattoo with his hand, putting it into her dress. He said he was looking for Pluto, she said.
Ashley Watson, who had been his assistant on the television series “Cosmos,” made another accusation. She said that during a visit to his apartment, which she thought was for work purposes, he held her hand and stared into her eyes, in what he called a Native American handshake, for about 10 seconds until she pulled away. Watson said that as she was leaving, he told her, “I want you to know that I want to hug you so bad right now, but I know that if I do, I’ll just want more.” She subsequently quit her job.
The article also included already public allegations by Tchiya Amet el Maat, who said Tyson raped her in 1984 when they were in graduate school at the University of Texas, Austin.
Tyson responded to the allegations in a long Facebook post, in which he denied the rape and described the first two incidents as benign.
“While I don’t explicitly remember searching for Pluto at the top of her shoulder, it is surely something I would have done in that situation,” Tyson wrote of Allers’ account. “As we all know, I have professional history with the demotion of Pluto, which had occurred officially just three years earlier. So whether people include it or not in their tattoos is of great interest to me.”
Allers said she was interviewed in person for several hours by an investigator from T&M Protection Resources, a company the museum hired. She said the investigator followed up with witnesses she provided and looked into a speech Tyson gave at a conference in 2014, which she said included jokes about gay people and criticisms of conservatives.
Tyson was also investigated by Fox Broadcasting and National Geographic, which broadcast his television series “StarTalk” and “Cosmos.” Those companies announced in March that their investigations were complete and that his shows would return to the air. Allers said that investigation seemed less thorough to her, just a half-hour phone call with investigators from the two networks.
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,” Allers said. She said she hoped the museum was “taking steps to make sure behavior like this doesn’t continue to occur.”
Amet was outraged by the museum’s decision.
“If Neil deGrasse Tyson had raped a white woman, he would not be on TV anymore, and this woman would have received a settlement,” Amet, who is Black, said in a statement.
Watson said she had declined to speak with the museum’s investigators, as she was worn out from telling her story to other investigators and to news outlets. She said she just wanted to move on.
“In hindsight, I should’ve talk to them,” she said in a text message. “Although I personally don’t think the outcome would’ve been different.”
Tyson, who has led the planetarium since 1996, did not respond to a request for comment for this article.