Stephen Colbert Probes Misconduct Allegations With Neil deGrasse Tyson on 'Late Show'

Scott Kowalchyk/CBS

"What can we learn from this?" the CBS host asked the astrophysicist, who was accused by three women of inappropriate behavior in 2018.

Stephen Colbert didn't ease guest Neil deGrasse Tyson into conversation during The Late Show on Monday night.

Rather, the CBS host took the elephant in the room head-on as soon as deGrasse Tyson sat down on the Ed Sullivan Theater stage. Colbert quickly mentioned that last year, two women came forward with allegations of sexual misconduct against the astrophysicist and host of National Geographic's StarTalk and Cosmos: Possible Worlds, which will air on Fox and National Geographic later this year. Their stories resurfaced another claim of misconduct from 2014. In March, following multiple investigations into the alleged behavior and hiatuses to his entertainment work, deGrasse Tyson was restored to his role as host on both shows.

"I can't imagine that was a particularly satisfying result for you or these women," Colbert said of the end of the investigations, before asking Tyson how the year had been for him since the allegations were first reported.

"It's been very long," deGrasse Tyson responded. "When I think about what I valued over that time, it was in particular the value of support from family, from friends, and friends such as you, and especially fans who were there the whole time."

Colbert then continued to prompt deGrasse Tyson on the matter, saying, "A lot of people have been asked the question, what can we learn from this?"

DeGrasse Tyson continued on the same theme, saying, "That's what I learned: I learned that I had friends in a time of need and a time of stress." As a scientist, he added, he often thought objectively and not emotionally. "When I needed it most, people were there for me."

The CBS host noted that although the allegations had been adjudicated, "it is an emotional experience" for fans to have the accusations lingering in their minds, to which deGrasse Tyson responded that he only tried to be a "vehicle" for the wonders of the universe and did not attempt to seek attention for himself.

Several social-media users watching the appearance weren't satisfied with deGrasse Tyson's responses Monday. "If your answer to sexual harassment questions is 'thanks to family, friends and fans for supporting me,' that doesn't appear to show much growth or act as an apology," one user tweeted.

"For a professional communicator, these are oddly weak responses from Neil deGrasse Tyson on @colbertlateshow regarding the misconduct allegations against him (of which he was cleared). He's talking about his own support network but not about what the women may have felt," another added.

In November 2018, two women, a Bucknell University professor and a former assistant, came forward in a story in Patheos claiming that the astrophysicist had made inappropriate sexual advances toward them. Their claims joined a 2014 blog post from a former graduate-school classmate of deGrasse Tyson's, who claimed he had drugged and raped her. Fox and National Geographic initially responded by pulling the scientist's shows and initiating investigations. 

In a long blog post in 2018, deGrasse Tyson offered his own version of the alleged events, concluding, "Accusations can damage a reputation and a marriage. Sometimes irreversibly. I see myself as loving husband and as a public servant — a scientist and educator who serves at the will of the public. I am grateful for the support I’ve received from those who continue to respect and value me and my work."

DeGrasse Tyson was on The Late Show to promote his new book, Letters From an Astrophysicist.