A political reporter alleges that NBA legend Charles Barkley told her, “I don’t hit women but if I did I would hit you,” during an off-the-record conversation while they were discussing 2020 Democratic presidential candidates.
Alexi McCammond, who is covering the 2020 presidential race for Axios, tweeted that Barkley, 56, made inappropriate remarks to her on Tuesday at an unspecified event, New York Post reported.
McCammond said Barkley made the comments when she questioned his apparent political indecisiveness as they discussed the 2020 Democratic presidential hopefuls.
When McCammond objected to his comments, she said Barkley told her she “couldn’t take a joke.”
Barkley, one of the best-known broadcasters in sports, works with Turner Network Television covering NBA games. After retiring from pro basketball, the NBA Hall of Famer announced that he would run for governor of Alabama but changed his mind.
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According to McCammond, Barkley first said he supported Deval Patrick for president, then changed his mind. “He came in talking about how he loves Deval Patrick and once someone from Pete’s campaign came around he said he loved Pete and I reminded him he previously said he was a Deval fan,” McCammond tweeted.
Barkley apologized for his comment on Wednesday morning via a statement through Turner Sports.
“My comment was inappropriate and unacceptable. It was an attempted joke that wasn’t funny at all. There’s no excuse for it and I apologize,” Barkley said.
This won’t the first time Barkley gets in trouble for making light of domestic violence. He apologized in 1990 for joking about beating his wife and kids after almost losing a game while playing for the Philadelphia 76ers. His comments were criticized by women’s groups in Philadelphia and Los Angeles, New York Post reported.
“This is a game that if you lose, you go home and beat your kids,” Barkley told a reporter at the time, according to the Los Angeles Times. “Did you see my wife jumping up and down at the end of the game? That’s because she knew I wasn’t going to beat her.”
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Barkley has been making headlines for years because of his outlandish comments on just about everything, Michelle Kapusta wrote for The Cheat Sheet.
McCammond tweeted that she hated “being part of a story” but those who threaten violence should be held accountable.
“There are almost no times I will break an OTR ‘agreement’ but this is not OK,” McCammond tweeted, referring to the off-the-record discussion with Barkley.
If someone says something off the record, they do not want it to be publicly reported. Being told something off-the-record puts reporters in a bind, according to Indira A.R. Lakshmanan, executive editor at the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.
“We can’t un-know something,” Lakshmann wrote for the Poynter Institute. “It’s a bad convention that’s antithetical to what we do as journalists, and why reporters should resist having off-the-record conversations.”
On social media, responses to McCammond’s tweets ranged from hostile to supportive. “Not cool at all, Charles Barkley. Abuse is never a laughing matter,” one person tweeted. Another accused her of using her gender as an entitlement tool.
Barkley has been married to his wife, Maureen Blumhardt, for 30 years. They have a daughter. He has said that his wife is a neat freak and he spends more time doing household chores than he does on the golf course.