Aubrey de Grey exonerated! Not.


I guess the Aubrey de Grey affair, in which he was accused of sexual harrasment and lost his job, has been concluded with the release of the independent investigation’s report. De Grey has his own peculiar twist on it.

Now that the relevant portion of the independent investigator’s work is finished, and especially because her report quoted the full text of the email in question, I am at last in a position to apologise – which I gladly do publicly – to Laura Deming for my email to her in 2012, about which I had forgotten until the investigator reminded me of it. As STAT reported three weeks ago, I consider that that email would have been a mistake even if she had been five years older, because we were in a mentor-mentee relationship. I catgorically deny Laura’s current (though, as she made clear on August 10th, not contemporaneous) view, shared by the investigator, that I sent that email with improper intent – but my email does not become OK just because improper intent is now being misread into it. It’s also no excuse that I had interpreted the email from Laura to which I was replying as light-hearted, rather than as expressing “concerns about mentors doing stuff like that” (as she wrote on August 10th), and allowed myself to be emboldened by it. Laura: I unreservedly apologise.

So only now can he apologize, after the investigators published his offensive email in full. If they hadn’t published it, he wouldn’t need to apologize? It’s nice that he apologizes now, but notice that he says nothing about the final results of the independent investigation, which found him guilty, guilty, guilty. It’s pretty scathing, actually, but I guess he’s in denial.

After a thorough review of the evidence, we make the following findings by a preponderance of the evidence.

First, we find Dr. de Grey purposefully and knowingly disregarded multiple directives (from the acting Executive Director, this investigator, and his own counsel) to retain the confidentiality of the investigation. In his interview, Dr. de Grey not only admitted to this conduct, he made unreasonable efforts to justify it (e.g., downplaying it as a “transgression” that “worked.”)

Second we find Dr. de Grey misrepresented facts to the Recipient. He suggested the investigation concluded Complainant #2’s claims were “100 percent fictitious.” Yet when pressed as to the source of that information, Dr. de Grey acknowledged he extrapolated this interpretation from Fabiny’s comment that he was going to be reinstated. We note in a Facebook post published after his termination on August 21, 2021, Dr. de Grey seemingly acknowledged taking liberty with Fabiny’s comment, characterizing his interpretation of her comment as “exaggerated.” We also note that after Dr. de Grey learned the following day that the investigation had in fact sustained Complainant #2’s claims against him, he made no efforts to correct his earlier misstatement, either to the Recipient or to his Facebook audience (having reposted on August 21, 2021 his original message referring to the claims as “100 percent fictitious.”)

Third, because of the public nature in which this investigation is being played out – including Dr. de Grey’s continued social media comments and his supporters’ prolific responses – we find it reasonable that key witnesses with material information (perhaps even more complainants), would be deterred and intimidated from meeting with the Firm. This deterrence and intimidation could seriously compromise the Firm’s ability to conduct a thorough investigation into ongoing sexual harassment claims, as the Board directed we undertake.

Fourth and similarly, Dr. de Grey’s message to the Recipient – incorrectly declaring the investigation was concluded in his favor – suggests he was privy to details of the investigation before others. Both aspects – that he had advance notice and that it was contrary to the actual findings – inaccurately portray the Firm as lacking impartiality and independence to potential witnesses and parties.

Fifth, we find Complainant #2 reasonably interpreted Dr. de Grey’s message to the Recipient to be a threat to her career. She heard from the Recipient that Dr. de Grey referenced her “career will be over soon.” This is consistent with his actual email. It is undisputed Dr. de Grey made the following statement, suggesting he alone could save her career, but only if she did his bidding: “I find [Complainant #2’s] career is absolutely over as things stand, and the only reason it actually isn’t is because I am a man of honour who refuses to let somebody (especially a meteoric rising star) be burned at the stake while an actual villian gets away scot free and is thereby emboldened.” While Dr. de Grey characterized his proposed course of action in the email to the Recipient as “rescuing” Complainant #2, we do not find this plausible, given the language he used. Dr. de Grey’s message to the Recipient did exactly what the confidentiality admonitions were designed to prevent – attempt to interfere with an investigation by influencing a party’s allegations. Dr. de Grey’s ill-advised message to the Recipient was in fact conveyed to Complainant #2. Indeed, Dr. de Grey intended this course of action by stating, “And you need to tell her so, as probably only you can. Go to it.”

Next, we find Dr. de Grey’s message an attempt to distract from his own conduct – part of which he admitted (sending a sexual message to underage mentee Complainant #1) – and to point to another individual as the “actual villain.” Regardless of anyone else’s motives or conduct in pursuing an investigation, the fact remains that Dr. de Grey is responsible for his own conduct, regardless of how it came to light.

Finally, we find the fact that Dr. de Grey sent the emails to the Recipient from his SRF email account was yet another attempt to unduly influence, at best, and threaten, at worst, the Recipient into taking the actions Dr. de Grey wanted, namely putting pressure on both the Recipient and Complainant #2. In this regard, we note Dr. de Grey’s subject line to the Recipient – “You will thank me.” – suggests Dr. de Grey was doing him a favor by asking him to put pressure on Complainant #2. This can only be interpreted as a demand the Recipient interfere with a confidential investigation and unduly influence a witness.

In closure, Dr. de Grey’s unapologetic interference with the investigation by reaching out to a witness through a third party, and repeatedly posting about the investigation, has generated angry attacks on the accusers and perpetuated misinformation (i.e., that he has been exonerated). This compromises the Firm’s ability to retain credibility and trust with witnesses. We find his attempt to influence a party may chill, and likely has chilled, others from coming forward; was an effort to alter and sidetrack the investigation; and, was reasonably threatening to a party.

De Grey’s response to all that was to announce, with a sigh of relief, that he can finally apologize to one of his accusers for one thing, while denying everything else, in spite of the fact that the investigation found him clearly in the wrong on everything. Furthermore, the investigators noticed all the squirrely stuff he was doing on social media to mislead and lie…it was danged obvious to everyone, except of course, to his cult-like fans who truly believe that Aubrey de Grey is going to cure death.

Comments

  1. birgerjohansson says

    People who look like Rasputin’s love child with Ayatollah Khomeini are in no position to demand trust from anyone.
    Maybe Metal players, but not Gandalf Grey here.

  2. chrislawson says

    Clearly AdG is a gaslighting abuser, and anyone who continues to support him is an enabler.

    One correction to your post, though, PZ…the report did not find AdG ‘in the wrong on everything.’ The report found that he had not caused Complainant #2’s funding to be cut because of a complaint she lodged about him (the complaint was lodged months after the funding decision). Still, the report finds him in the wrong on 3 of the 4 complaints. And those 3 are very serious matters.

    I also suspect that a lot of British scientists will be unimpressed with his multiple statements that his behaviour was acceptable in the UK, and this is all just a cross-cultural misunderstanding. Which is, of course, utter BS. While there is definitely a cultural difference around what is acceptable language, there is no way that sexually propositioning a 17-year old mentee whom you have known since she was age 12 would be appropriate, nor would encouraging subordinates to have sex with donors for funding. I’m not saying this never happens in the UK, but the idea that it is an accepted social norm among UK scientists is just absurd.

  3. Pierce R. Butler says

    … a meteoric rising star) be burned at the stake …

    Apparently the investigators’ remit excluded mangled metaphors.

  4. lanir says

    I’m confused. Were all these hairbrained excuses actually a subtle appeal for his audience to pity his inability to deal with reality when confronted with it?

    Either way, the detachable penis song makes better excuses than this guy. And it’s funny rather than disgusting.

  5. unclefrogy says

    he is not in denial he is just lying and brazening it out like many prominent politicians and other self important asholes of late, It is the thing to do these days. I guess.

  6. birgerjohansson says

    petesh @ 2
    I was being facetious. But a study of his history -like that NY governor- should sound warning bells.

    There are some “stealth” assholes (coughSwedishAcademycough) and then there are Trumpoids who say or do things that should make people be wary of giving them their trust. Grandiose claims are part of that picture, even if he never participated in a reality show.

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