This past week, Sean Davis, writing for The Federalist, ran a series of increasingly nitpicky articles accusing Tyson of misquoting or misstating some of the quotes or anecdotes he uses in his popular lectures. Some of the criticisms were valid, like one in which Tyson wrongfully attributed a quote to George W. Bush, but most were simply of the “Well, technically…” variety. For a man who conducts hundreds of interviews and lectures a year, expecting him to not make one or two mistakes when speaking — oftentimes extemporaneously — is pretty harsh.
Despite the inanity of the accusations, conservative pundits and readers flocked to the allegations, basking in the chance to take Tyson down a few pegs. They didn’t mind blowing it out of proportion, either.
And let's keep in mind the bozos at The Federalist are about one step above NewsMax or World Net Daily when it comes to credibility.
According to the article, Tyson has a slide that has two quotes that he uses to make a point about the general lack of scientific literacy in American society.
Tyson attributes one to a “newspaper headline”:
Half the schools in the district are below average.
In another, he says a politician once said:
I have changed my views 360 degrees on that issue.
Then the audience typically laughs, because as the late, great George Carlin once said, “Think of how stupid the average person is, and realize half of them are stupider than that.” Then further realize the dumbest are on, say, the House Committee for Science, Space and Technology. The point is, American society needs help. We are clueless and let’s get science back into the mainstream.
But Sean Davis wasn’t laughing. He spent time running down those quotes and after a few days a-googlin’, he couldn’t find where the exact quotes came from. He found similar quotes or stories, but not the exact quotes, and so he wrote a massive article accusing Tyson of being a fraud and questioning his reputation as a scientist. Then he wrote several more that essentially rehashed the same complaints.
And poof, overnight, Neil DeGrasse Tyson is now a "serial plagiarist" and "discredited former scientist", because Sean Davis says so. This of course unleashed a torrent of comments from the right about how Tyson is in fact an "affirmative action hire" and is apparently not worthy of everything that he's had bestowed upon him.
The issue is not "Hey, Tyson didn't quote this person verbatim!" any more than it is "Hey, President Obama saluted these Marines incorrectly!"
It's only a controversy if a famous black person does it.