"America Was Never That Great and Won't Be Great Until All Americans Share a True Equality"
ALBANY, NEW YORK — August 17, 2018
These words belong to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who said it Wednesday in a speech blasting Republican President Donald Trump and his slogan, "Make America Great Again."
"We're not going to make America great again — it was never that great," said Cuomo, who is running for a third term this November. "We have not reached greatness. We will reach greatness when every American is fully engaged."
Cuomo, who is considered a potential White House contender in 2020, noted that he believes Trump wants to return to a period of greater sexism, racism, and intolerance toward immigrants. He said New York would strive to be a liberal alternative where people of all backgrounds have the same opportunities.
The crowd who heard his speech was shocked and reacted with surprised gasps and laughter to the comments. Republicans quickly condemned him.
"America, with its imperfections, has always been great," said Marc Molinaro, the Dutchess County executive who faces Cuomo in this year's election. "Mr. Cuomo owes the nation an apology. He should be ashamed of himself."
Brian Kolb, the minority leader of the state Assembly, tweeted that Cuomo's remark was "inexcusable & reprehensible."
President Trump tweeted on Wednesday, saying it was evidence of Cuomo having a “total meltdown!”
“WE’RE NOT GOING TO MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN, IT WAS NEVER THAT GREAT.” Can you believe this is the Governor of the Highest Taxed State in the U.S., Andrew Cuomo, having a total meltdown!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 16, 2018
Cuomo responded with his own tweet saying that Trump’s vision for making America “great” again was “backward.”
.@RealDonaldTrump: What you say would be 'great again' would not be great at all...We will not go back to discrimination, segregation, sexism, isolationism, racism or the KKK.— Andrew Cuomo (@NYGovCuomo) August 16, 2018
Like NY's motto says: Excelsior -- Ever Upward (not backward) https://t.co/nrcUrsYJCO
The Rev. Al Sharpton, a Cuomo backer, showed support for Cuomo on Thursday morning on Twitter, writing, "We are not going back to the 'good old days' — our people didn’t do well, we fight 4 our rights & fight racism."
A spokeswoman for Cuomo later commented the speech, seeking to clarify the point he was making.
"The governor believes America is great and that her full greatness will be fully realized when every man, woman, and child has full equality," Cuomo press secretary Dani Lever said in a statement. "When the president speaks about making America great again — going back in time — he ignores the pain so many endured and that we suffered from slavery, discrimination, segregation, sexism and marginalized women's contributions."
According to a July poll from Quinnipiac University, Cuomo still has a formidable lead in the polls before the autumn elections.
So, Cuomo widened his lead over Cynthia Nixon, an actress and activist running to his left in the Democratic gubernatorial primary election in September. Cuomo’s 36-point advantage was even wider than in a Quinnipiac poll in April, when his lead was 22 points.
The war of words between Cuomo and Trump escalated in recent days when Trump, on a visit to upstate New York, said Cuomo had called him and promised not to challenge Trump in 2020. Cuomo denied the president's account.