Richmond, 47, is a prominent researcher and mentor in the field of paleoanthropology with at least 170 scientific studies to his name. His most famous accomplishment is the co-discovery of a pair of hominin footprints in Kenya that dated 1.5 million years. Before joining the museum, he taught more than a decade at George Washington University, including as chair of its anthropology department.
As detailed by contributing writer Michael Balter, an unnamed anthropologist claims that Richmond assaulted her during a 2014 conference they attended in Italy while she was his research assistant. The woman says she became intoxicated one evening and doesn't remember going to Richmond's hotel room. She allegedly woke up there as he was kissing and groping her, at which time she told him to stop and left. She was too drunk to have consented to anything, she says.
Richmond maintains that anything that happened between them was consensual.
"I want to be clear that I never sexually assaulted anyone, threatened anyone with retaliation, or attempted to harm anyone’s professional career," Richmond told The Post in an email. "I take full responsibility for exercising poor judgment in the past by mixing my professional and personal lives, and I have changed my thinking and my behavior."
The museum's first investigation found that Richmond had violated its policy against relationships between supervisors and subordinates, and Richmond was given "a zero tolerance warning." The research assistant, who was shifted to a different adviser, repeated her allegations to others at the 2015 meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists in St. Louis. Her story became the talk of the academic community, which triggered a second investigation by the museum.
That subsequent probe, which included solicitation of previously unreported claims of harassment from Richmond's work prior to the museum, ended without any action against him. Not long after, Richmond says he was given a positive performance review and a raise. Museum officials told The Post they could not comment.
Science Magazine's very public airing of the lengthy entire episode again puts the issue of sexual misconduct front and center in the scientific community. In just the past year or so -- a period in which several high-profile researchers were accused of unwanted advances and inappropriate behavior -- a lot has changed in the way such allegations are viewed. Many scientists are fed up with what they say is their community's inability to deal decisively with sexual harassment. They argue that it is pervasive and often keeps women from achieving and succeeding in scientific fields.
For its third investigation of Richmond, the American Museum of Natural History has turned to an independent third party. Richmond argues that the situation amounts to double jeopardy and denies the "versions of events" described in the Science Magazine article.
"I am deeply distressed to learn that I have upset the women involved and colleagues in my field," Richmond told The Post. "I regret that I was not sensitive to how my academic position could impact the dynamics of consensual relationships."