A national political reporter wrote on Twitter that NBA legend Charles Barkley told her Tuesday night, “I don’t hit women, but if I did, I’d hit you.”
Alexi McCammond, an Axios reporter, said when she objected to his remark, Barkley told her she “couldn’t take a joke.”
McCammond wrote that Barkley made the remark in an off-the-record conversation in which she asked about which Democratic presidential candidate he supports. She said there are almost no instances in which she will break an off-the-record agreement, but that she felt the need to in this case because of his comment. “This is not OK,” she wrote.
McCammond said Barkley came into the event saying “he loves” former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, and once someone from South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg’s campaign came around, “he said he loved Pete.” When she reminded him he previously said he was a fan of Patrick, Barkley made the remark about hitting her.
Barkley, who serves as an analyst for "Inside the NBA" on TNT, issued an apology to McCammond in a statement Wednesday morning.
“My comment was inappropriate and unacceptable," Barkley said. "It was an attempted joke that wasn’t funny at all. There’s no excuse for it and I apologize.”
Nearly 2,500 people retweeted McCammond’s tweet as of Wednesday morning.
Many expressed support for McCammond, the 2019 recipient of the National Association of Black Journalists‘ Michael J. Feeney Emerging Journalist Award, and condemned Barkley’s remark.
Some noted on Twitter that Barkley has made controversial comments in the past, including in 1990 in post-game remarks following a victory.
"This is a game that if you lose, you go home and beat your wife and kids," The New York Times reported Barkley said after the game. Months later, Barkley spat on an 8-year-old girl during a game, The Chicago Tribune reported in March 1991. The target in that incident was a heckler sitting near the court, but Barkley's spit hit the girl, the Tribune reported. Barkley said afterward he had made a mistake.
McCammond said she did not wish to be the focus of a story, but that the incident is bigger than her because it touches on domestic violence, which is widespread.
“I encourage you to consider how you’d respond if a friend said something similar to what Barkley said tonight,“ she tweeted. “And then challenge yourself to ask the same of yourself if a stranger (or ’celebrity’) said that. I hope the answers are the same. Everyone should be held accountable.”
NBC News reached out to McCammond for comment but did not immediately hear back.