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Neil DeGrasse Tyson Is Canceled (for Now) Amid His #MeToo Reckoning

Nat Geo is doing the right thing by investigating, but it's coming pretty late.

by Kara Weisenstein
Jan 4 2019, 8:01pm

Neil deGrasse Tyson. Photo by FOX via Getty Images

National Geographic is pulling celebrity astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson off the air—at least for a little while—Variety reported on Thursday.

His pop culture and science talk show StarTalk is on hiatus while Fox Networks investigates multiple claims of sexual misconduct against Tyson. A representative for Nat Geo told Variety that they expect to wrap up the investigation and make a final decision in the next few weeks.

Tyson’s #MeToo reckoning began in a real way in late November, when two women came forward with allegations of inappropriate behavior. In a report by David McAfee for the website Patheos, Dr. Katelyn N. Allers of Bucknell University claimed that Tyson groped her during a photo-op at a party in 2009. And Tyson’s former assistant, Ashley Watson, said she was forced to quit her job after Tyson made repeated sexual advances toward her.

Their claims echo allegations by Tchiya Amet, who says Tyson drugged and raped her while they were both grad students at University of Texas in Austin in 1984. She says the assault eventually caused her to drop out. Amet first tried to go public with her story in 2010, when she accused Tyson in front of a live audience. She also wrote public blog posts about the incident in 2014, 2016, and 2017. Amet even filed a police report, even though the statute of limitations on her claims had expired. Despite this, it seems her case was never investigated.

After the allegations by Dr. Allers and Watson hit the news cycle, Tyson posted a lengthy public apology on Facebook, addressing the accusations and explaining his side of each interaction. He flatly denied raping Amet.

As Broadly staff writer Marie Solis thoughtfully pointed out in December, Tyson’s statement functioned less as a meaningful, personal apology to the women who accused him of misconduct, and more as a crisis PR play to salvage his damaged reputation.

Though belated, Fox Networks made the right move by benching Tyson and conducting an investigation, which Tyson says will have his full cooperation. In addition to putting StarTalk on hiatus, Tyson canceled several talks he was scheduled to give in Florida this month.

The fifth season of StarTalk debuted on Nat Geo in early November, with Anthony Bourdain as the guest, in an interview recorded before Bourdain’s death in June. Just three episodes from the new season, out of a 20 episode order, have aired. The slated, unaired episodes include guests George R.R. Martin, former Vice President Al Gore, Weird Al Yankovic, Bill Nye, Dan Rather, Jeff Goldblum, Jack Black, James Marsden and Anna Deavere Smith.

The other thing that remains to be seen is what will happen to the much-hyped second season of Cosmos, the reboot of Carl Sagan’s iconic 1980 PBS series. Cosmos: Possible Worlds has been marketed as a centerpiece of Fox and Nat Geo’s 2019 programming, and is the follow-up to Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey from 2014. The new season is supposed to debut in early March, but if the company decides to part ways with Tyson in the interim, they’ll have under two months to pull the show entirely or replace the astrophysicist with another host.

For the network’s part, the producers of Cosmos indicated in a statement that they are committed to an unbiased, scientific investigation into Tyson’s alleged misconduct. “The credo at the heart of Cosmos is to follow the evidence wherever it leads. The producers of Cosmos can do no less in this situation,” they said.

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