Neil deGrasse Tyson has issued an apology on Facebook after coming under fire for a controversial reaction to the recent mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio. The scientist and television personality originally posted the following comment on Twitter: “In the past 48 hours, the USA horrifically lost 34 people to mass shootings. On average, across any 48 hours, we also lose 500 to medical errors, 300 to the flu, 250 to suicide, 200 to car accidents, 40 to homicide via handgun. Often our emotions respond more to spectacle than to data.”
Tyson’s response sparked backlash as many social media users felt his comment diminished the tragedies of the two mass shootings. The August 3 shooting took place at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, and left 20 dead and more than two dozen people wounded. A second shooting occurred August 4 in Dayton, Ohio, killing nine people and leaving 26 others injured.
“My intent was to offer objectively true information that might help shape conversations and reactions to preventable ways we die,” Tyson wrote in response to the backlash over his initial comment. “Where I miscalculated was that I genuinely believed the Tweet would be helpful to anyone trying to save lives in America. What I learned from the range of reactions is that for many people, some information –-my Tweet in particular – can be true but unhelpful, especially at a time when many people are either still in shock, or trying to heal – or both.”
Tyson continued, “So if you are one of those people, I apologize for not knowing in advance what effect my Tweet could have on you. I am therefore thankful for the candor and depth of critical reactions shared in my Twitter feed. As an educator, I personally value knowing with precision and accuracy what reaction anything that I say (or write) will instill in my audience, and I got this one wrong.”
Despite Tyson’s apology, the backlash only persisted as the scientist appeared to be apologizing more for causing a controversial reaction than for what he actually wrote. Many social media users flooded Tyson’s Facebook post to criticize the apology as disingenuous.
The controversy over Tyson’s mass shooting comments arrived just a couple weeks after he was cleared of sexual misconduct charges by New York’s Hayden Planetarium, where he will keep his job as the head of the institution. Fox and National Geographic previously cleared Tyson in March after he was accused of inappropriate conduct by three women in 2018.
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IndieWire has not yet received comment from Fox, which is set to air another season of Tyson’s “Cosmos” series, which originally aired on the network in 2014 nor from representatives for CBS’ “The Late Show.” The scientist largely rose into public view due to being a frequent guest of Stephen Colbert on “The Colbert Report,” a relationship which has continued on “The Late Show” — at one point in the run of the late-night show since Colbert took over in 2015, deGrasse Tyson was the guest who had appeared more frequently than any other.