Let’s be clear from the top here – it’s not acceptable for a man to tell a woman that he’d like to hit her. In this case, we are talking about a well-known public figure making such a statement to a female political reporter. It’s not a remark that is construed as a joke, especially by other women.

Charles Barkley, legendary Hall of Fame basketball star turned TNT NBA analyst an inappropriate remark to Axios reporter Alexi McCammond Tuesday night in an off-the-record conversation. McCammond is in Atlanta to cover tonight’s Democrat debate for the party’s 2020 presidential nomination. Barkley was addressing his support of Patrick Deval as a candidate when McCammond mentioned that he has previously expressed support for Mayor Pete’s campaign.

McCammond said the comment was in reference to a conversation of Deval Patrick, the former two-term governor of Massachusetts who recently entered the race for the 2020 presidential campaign. McCammond said that Barkley had said he loves Patrick, but that when someone from Pete Buttigieg’s campaign arrived, he said he loved him, too. McCammond said she reminded Barkley about his previous comments about Deval.

Buttigieg is the current mayor of South Bend, Indiana, and is also running in the Democratic field for the 2020 primary.

Remember, she’s a political reporter so it is logical that she would question Barkley when he said he “loves” Deval Patrick if earlier when Buttigieg’s people were around, Barkley said he “loves” Mayor Pete. The answer could have been as simple as “hey, I like several of the candidates” while not committing his total support of one specific candidate so far, but that isn’t what Barkley said. He responded with a defensive, aggressive answer. Even during an off-the-record conversation, that answer was over the line.

McCammond tweeted out the exchange, acknowledging breaking the off-the-record agreement.

During their original verbal exchange, Barkley chastised McCammond saying she “couldn’t take a joke” when she objected to his remark. She explained that her reaction wasn’t solely about herself – it was sparked by the knowledge of the problem of violence against women, in general.

“I hate being part of a story so here’s a reminder that this is so much bigger than me: nearly 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner in the US. 1 in 4 women and 1 in 9 men experience severe intimate partner physical violence,” she wrote adding a link to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence’s website.

“It’s not about me or my feelings — tho I’m grateful for the many friends who have reached out. But it’s about refusing to allow this culture to perpetuate because of silence on these issues. It’s easier and less awkward to be silent, but that helps NO ONE but the perpetrator.”

“I encourage you to consider how you’d respond if a friend said something similar to what Barkley said tonight. 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.”

Charles Barkley has a history of unfortunate remarks, going back 30 years. Other reporters referenced those on Twitter.

This morning an apology from Barkley came via Turner Sports PR on Twitter:

My read on this is that this wasn’t an actual interview. This was an off-the-record conversation, with lots of people around. It looks to me that Barkley showed up in a room (it looks like a bar) and was just interacting with others. McCammond tweeted a photo of the scene:

I have a problem with her violating an off-the-record agreement. She justifies it due to the seriousness of the remark. Public figures shouldn’t be making such “jokes” and should do better, especially in public places around a lot of people. She wanted to make a bigger point about cultural references and violence against women. I get that. Her case would be stronger, though, if she hadn’t made the agreement.