Neil deGrasse Tyson, the fun-lovin’ astrophysicist and TV personality, has been credibly accused of sexual misconduct by four women—one of whom, Thchiya Amet El Maat, alleged that he drugged and raped her while the two were graduate students at the University of Texas in 1984. Bill Maher, the boundary-pushing comedian, has branded the #MeToo movement “scary” and aspects of it “#MeCarthyism” whilst downplaying women’s accounts of inappropriate touching at the hands of Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, and the allegations against former congressman Al Franken.
On Friday night, Maher welcomed pal Tyson to his long-running HBO program Real Time. Tyson, who’s managed to weather any professional ramifications from the sexual-misconduct allegations—keeping his gigs with National Geographic’s StarTalk, Fox’s Cosmos and Hayden Planetarium—joined Maher and his panel, which included The Daily Beast’s politics editor Sam Stein, for an interview toward the end of the program. And sure enough, Maher joked about Tyson’s planets tie; let him hawk his new book of published letters to and from his fans; debated the scientific evidence (or lack thereof) supporting the existence of God, as is the outspoken atheist’s wont; talked flat-earthers; and acted generally chummy with one another.
What Maher failed to do was even remotely probe the disturbing allegations against Tyson—something that most interviewers of Tyson have failed to properly reckon with during his recent book tour (CBS This Morning sort of did, albeit via a soft line of questioning, asking what he’s “learned” since the allegations surfaced.)
In addition to soft-pedaling the allegations against Biden, Maher voiced objections to the public outrage surrounding Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s sexual-assault allegation against Trump’s Supreme Court nominee (now justice), Brett Kavanaugh. “There are social justice warriors who are crazy enough in this country, I fight with them all the time, who… they lend enough credence to this to make people think, ‘Oh, you know what? They’re going to go after my high school record. That’s fair game now.’ And it becomes sort of a privacy thing,” offered Maher.
Later on, the comedian added, “It does seem like things morphed from ‘listen to any woman who says she’s been wronged,’ which is the right thing to do, to ‘automatically believe.’ That’s what’s scary.”
What’s frustrating about Maher’s attitude toward #MeToo is that he appears to consistently downplay allegations of inappropriate touching or attempted sexual assault levied against certain men of power (usually Democrats), while regularly railing against those said to have been committed by President Trump, who’s been accused of varying acts of sexual misconduct by over 22 women. While the attitude shouldn’t be to “automatically believe” women, it shouldn’t take nearly two dozen accusers—or hating the man’s politics—to either.
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