Neil DeGrasse Tyson scandal: National Geographic suspends ‘StarTalk’ while investigating sexual harassment allegations against Tyson

January 3, 2019

by Colleen McGregor

The National Geographic Channel (also known as NatGeo) has taken the science-oriented talk show “Star Talk” off the air during its investigation into sexual harassment claims against “StarTalk” host Neil DeGrasse Tyson. According to Variety, two women have gone public with their accusations: “Bucknell University’s Dr. Katelyn N. Allers claimed Tyson groped her at an event in 2009, while a former assistant, Ashley Watson, said Tyson made repeated inappropriate sexual advances toward her.” In addition, musician Tchiya Amet claims that Tyson raped her in the 1980s when they were both graduate students.

NatGeo, which is owned by Fox, announced in November 2018 that it was investigating the allegations. The fifth season of “StarTalk” aired three episodes, mostly recently on November 26, 2018. A NatGeo rep told Variety: “In order to allow the investigation to occur unimpeded we chose to hold new episodes of ‘StarTalk’ until it is complete. We expect that to happen in the next few weeks at which time we’ll make a final decision.” Tyson is also the host of “Cosmos: Possible Worlds,” which was set to premiere on Fox on March 3, 2019, and on NatGeo on March 4, 2019. The networks have not yet announced if “Cosmos: Possible Worlds” will be televised as planned.

Tyson, who has denied the allegations, is one of numerous celebrities who’ve been accused of sexual harassment during the #MeToo movement that arose during late 2017, when once-powerful public figures in media and entertainment (such as Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, Louis C.K., Russell Simmons, Charlie Rose and Matt Lauer) lost their jobs after their alleged sexual misconduct acts that spanned decades were exposed by the news media. Weinstein is the only one who has been arrested for sexual assault (he is pleading not guilty), and Spacey is expected to be arrested and charged with sexual assault sometime in January 2019.

In a statement on his Facebook account, Tyson commented: “In any claim, evidence matters. Evidence always matters. But what happens when it’s just one person’s word against another’s, and the stories don’t agree? That’s when people tend to pass judgment on who is more credible than whom. And that’s when an impartial investigation can best serve the truth – and would have my full cooperation to do so.”

March 15, 2019 UPDATE: Fox and NatGeo have issued this joint statement: “The investigation is complete, and we are moving forward with both StarTalk’ and ‘Cosmos.’ ‘StarTalk’ will return to the air with the remaining 13 episodes in April on National Geographic, and both Fox and National Geographic are committed to finding an air date for ‘Cosmos.’ There will be no further comment.”

November 7, 2019 UPDATE: Indiewire has reported that “Cosmos: Possible Words” will premiere on March 9, 2020. According to Indiewire, the show “will venture through both time and space, starting at the dawn of the universe and moving to a futuristic 2039 New York World’s Fair, before moving further into the future.” The cast of “Cosmos: Possible Worlds” will include Seth MacFarlane (who’s an executive producer of the show) as President Harry Truman, Patrick Stewart as astronomer William Herschel, Viggo Mortensen as Soviet plant geneticist Nikolai Vavilov, and Judd Hirsch as atomic-bomb creator Robert Oppenheimer.