Charles Barkleysays there's "no excuse" for saying he would "hit" a female political reporter -- but insists the whole thing was an attempted joke gone bad.
Axios reporter Alexi McCammond says she was talking with the NBA legend about who he's supporting in the upcoming Presidential election ... and that's when he said, "I don’t hit women, but if I did I would hit you."
Here's the backstory ... McCammond says Barkley was initially explaining why he supported Gov. Deval Patrick -- former 2-term gov. of Mass. -- but then changed up and said he was supporting Pete Buttigieg.
When McCammond questioned him about the switch, Barkley allegedly made the comment about hitting her.
McCammond says she objected to the comment and Barkley told her she "couldn't take a joke."
Barkley has since issued an apology ... saying, "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."
McCammond is now reacting to Barkley's apology -- saying, "The comments Charles Barkley made to me are not acceptable."
"Threats of violence are not a joke, & no person deserves to be hit or threatened like that."
"Silence only allows the culture of misogyny to fester. And those kinds of comments don't merit off-the-record protections."