Astrophysicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson has apologized for a tweet he sent on Sunday comparing mass shooting statistics to frequency of other causes of death like car crashes and medical errors.
“My intent was to offer objectively true information that might help shape our conversations and reactions to preventable ways we die,” Tyson said in a statement posted to his Facebook page.
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“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.”
“So if you are one of those people, I apologize for not knowing in advance what effect my Tweet could have on you … I got this one wrong.”
On Sunday, following shootings in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio that killed 31 people, Tyson posted a tweet comparing the rate of mass shooting deaths in 48 hours to how many deaths on average occur in the same time frame due to other causes.”Often our emotions respond more to spectacle than to data,” Tyson wrote.
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The tweet was widely condemned on social media as tone-deaf and inappropriate, and Tyson’s apology didn’t satisfy some Facebook users.
“The depth of your reflection in this note is offensively shallow,” read one Facebook comment. “You used data to draw a false equivalence with unfathomably hurtful timing, and your arrogance has you doubling down with “true but unhelpful”. Why even bother with a note?”
The tweet and apology come just weeks after the American Museum of Natural History announced that Tyson would keep his position as head of the Hayden Planetarium after investigation into claims of sexual misconduct by four women, including Tyson’s former assistant on the Fox/National Geographic revival of “Cosmos.”
In March, National Geographic also concluded its own internal investigation and announced that it would continue airing Tyson’s talk show “StarTalk” as well as “Cosmos: Possible Worlds.”