After publishing an embarrassing non-apology on Facebook last week for repeated quote fabrications, planetarium director Neil deGrasse Tyson took to Facebook again earlier this week to revise and extend his remarks. His full post can be found here.
As can be said of his public talks, much of his Facebook note is comprised of unnecessary self-flattery (there’s a paragraph on his wardrobe, for example). However, he did set aside some space to talk about his repeated fabrication of a George W. Bush quote that was never uttered. Here’s that section, which is worth reading in full:
A Case Study: Quoting George W. Bush
For a talk I give on the rise and fall of science in human cultural history I occasionally paraphrase President George W. Bush from one of his speeches, remarking that our God is the God who named the stars, and immediately noting that 2/3 of all star-names in the night sky are Arabic. I use this fact to pivot from the present-day, back to a millennium ago, during the Golden Age of Islam, in which major advances in math, science, engineering, medicine, and navigation were achieved. The Bush reference is not written on my PowerPoint slides, which I keep sparse, but I remembered it from a speech he gave after September 11, 2001. And I presented it that way, as Bush’s attempt to distinguish “we” from ‘they.” When eager scrutinizers looked for the quote they could not find it, and promptly accused me of fabricating a Presidential sentence. Lawyers are good at this. They find something that you get wrong, and use it to cast doubt on everything else you say. Blogosphere headlines followed, with accusations of me being a compulsive liar and a fabricator.