Neil deGrasse Tyson has spoken out after sexual misconduct accusations were made against the Cosmos star, disputing the claims in a lengthy Facebook post and saying he welcomes an investigation announced by Fox and National Geographic.
In a story published by Patheos on Thursday, Dr. Katelyn N. Allers, a physics and astronomy professor at Bucknell University, said she was “felt up” by Tyson, 60, during a party after an event for the American Astronomical Society in 2009 — a claim she didn’t report because AAS “didn’t have a mechanism for reporting sexual harassment at the time,” the story states.
Allers reportedly said that she and a friend asked the famous astrophysicist for a photo. “After we had taken the picture, he noticed my tattoo and kind of grabbed me to look at it, and was really obsessed about whether I had Pluto on this tattoo or not… and then he looked for Pluto, and followed the tattoo into my dress,” said Allers, according to Patheos.
Allers tells PEOPLE that the Patheos report about her allegation is “accurate and based on my experience.”
“My hope in coming forward was that the allegations against Dr. Tyson would be investigated — particularly those by Tchiya [Amet] and Ashley [Watson], whose lives and careers have been so very impacted,” Allers says.
Representatives for Tyson did not immediately respond to PEOPLE’s request for comment, but in his Facebook post, Tyson claimed that his alleged groping of Allers was “simply a search under the covered part of her shoulder of the sleeveless dress.” He apologized after saying that he “only just learned … that she thought this behavior creepy” and that it “was never my intent.”
He described his recollection of his interaction with Allers in 2009, noting that he becomes “almost giddy if I notice you’re wearing cosmic bling” when fans ask him for photos and said that looking for Pluto in Allers’ tattoo is “surely something I would have done in that situation.”
Watson — who did not immediately respond to PEOPLE’s request for comment — reportedly said in the Patheos article that she had to quit her job as an assistant to Tyson on Cosmos due to his repeated inappropriate advances.
According to Patheos, Watson also claimed that Tyson made “misogynistic comments” and that he maintained a list of overweight actresses on his phone in order to back up his belief that it is untrue that women feel they must be thin.
In the Patheos article, Watson reportedly went on to detail one night in which Tyson invited her over to his apartment “to share a bottle of wine” and “unwind for a couple of hours.” Before she left, Watson claimed, Tyson stopped her to show her a “Native American handshake,” which the outlet said “involved holding hands tightly, making eye contact, and feeling for each other’s pulse” — an interaction that made her uncomfortable.
Watson also claimed that Tyson told her that he wanted to hug her but that he would “just want more” if he did so. Watson said she reported the behavior to a supervisor, who supported her decision to quit but should blame it on a family emergency.
Tyson wrote on Facebook that the two “spent upwards of a hundred hours in one-on-one conversation” in summer 2018 because of her role as his production assistant and that they had “a fun, talkative friendship.”
Tyson wrote that he denied her welcome hugs on set and admitted to saying, “If I hug you I might just want more.” He claimed his “intent was to express restrained but genuine affection.”
Tyson said that he indeed invited Watson after work to have wine and cheese one night and that he “offered a special handshake” that he “learned from a Native elder.”
He added that Watson came to his office to tell him that she “was creeped out” by what had transpired. “I apologized profusely. She accepted the apology. And I assured her that had I known she was uncomfortable, I would have apologized on the spot, ended the evening,” he wrote.
These two new allegations come after musician Tchiya Amet publicly claimed in a blog post that Tyson raped and drugged her in his apartment when they were graduate students at the University of Texas in Austin. Her claims were reported by Patheos in October 2017.
Tyson wrote on Facebook that he had “a brief relationship” with Amet during graduate school in the early 1980s. “I remember being intimate only a few times, all at her apartment, but the chemistry wasn’t there,” he said. “So the relationship faded quickly. There was nothing otherwise odd or unusual about this friendship.”
Amet disputed his account, telling PEOPLE they “never dated” and had “no voluntary or conscious intimate encounters.”
Tyson said that he happened to see her a few years later when she was pregnant. He said that he “wished her well in motherhood and in whatever career path would follow.”
He denied ever assaulting her and said that her accusation came “as my visibility-level took another jump.”
According to Tyson, “the drug and rape allegation comes from an assumption of what happened to her during a night that she cannot remember.”
He continued: “It is as though a false memory had been implanted, which, because it never actually happened, had to be remembered as an evening she doesn’t remember. Nor does she remember waking up the next morning and going to the office. I kept a record of everything she posted, in case her stories morphed over time. So this is sad, which, for me, defies explanation.”
The producers of the Emmy-winning show Cosmos, which Tyson hosted in 2014, said in a statement to Deadline, “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. We are committed to a thorough investigation of this matter and to act accordingly as soon as it is concluded.”
A sequel of Cosmos, which Tyson is set to host again, is scheduled to premiere next year on Fox and sister cable channel National Geographic. Fox Broadcasting issued a statement to Variety, saying, “We have only just become aware of the recent allegations regarding Neil deGrasse Tyson. We take these matters very seriously and we are reviewing the recent reports.”
Tyson started off his Facebook post with his thoughts on the #MeToo movement. “For a variety of reasons, most justified, some unjustified, men accused of sexual impropriety in today’s ‘me-too’ climate are presumed to be guilty by the court of public opinion,” he said. “In any claim, evidence matters.”
“I’ve recently been publicly accused of sexual misconduct,” he wrote. “These accusations have received a fair amount of press in the past forty-eight hours, unaccompanied by my reactions. In many cases, it’s not the media’s fault. I declined comment on the grounds that serious accusations should not be adjudicated in the press. But clearly I cannot continue to stay silent.”
“I’m the accused, so why believe anything I say? Why believe me at all?” Tyson concluded the Facebook post. “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.”