NEW YORK, NY — Gov. Andrew Cuomo frequently lobs rhetorical jabs at fellow Queens native Donald Trump. But the Republican president hit back Wednesday, joining a chorus of backlash against the Democratic governor’s riff on Trump’s ubiquitous “Make America Great Again” slogan.
In a speech at a bill-signing event in Manhattan, Cuomo said America “was never that great.” The comment drew scattered shouts and laughs from the crowd, but later took on a life of its own as conservatives roundly condemned it.
Marc Molinaro, Cuomo’s Republican opponent in this year’s gubernatorial race, said the governor “owes the nation an apology.” GOP strategist Jessica Proud suggested he’d tanked his presidential ambitions.
Cuomo’s possible 2020 opponent later weighed in on Twitter, repeating the governor’s quote in capital letters and calling him out by name.
“Can you believe this is the Governor of the Highest Taxed State in the U.S., Andrew Cuomo, having a total meltdown!” Trump tweeted.
Cuomo’s remark was part of an argument that Trump wanted to take the nation back to a time before the movements for women’s equality and environmental protection and the more recent influx of immigrants.
“We’re not going to make America great again. It was never that great,” he said. “We have not reached greatness. We will reach greatness when every American is fully engaged.”
Dani Lever, the governor’s press secretary, followed up with a statement saying Cuomo “believes America is great” but that the nation “has not yet reached its maximum potential.”
But that didn’t stop the feeding frenzy. Fox News’ “The Five” dedicated an entire segment to Cuomo’s comments on Wednesday. Then Molinaro appeared on the network’s “Fox and Friends” — reportedly one of Trump’s favorite shows — Thursday morning to slam the governor again.
Cynthia Nixon, the actress and activist challenging Cuomo from the left in next month’s Democratic primary, also took advantage of the ordeal. “I think this is just another example of Andrew Cuomo trying to figure out what a progressive sounds like and missing by a mile,” she reportedly said.
But Cuomo didn’t pass up the opportunity to strike back against Trump on the Twitter battlefield.
“@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,” Cuomo tweeted Wednesday night. “Like NY’s motto says: Excelsior — Ever Upward (not backward).”
Watch Cuomo’s remark below.
(Lead image: Gov. Andrew Cuomo appears at the Wednesday event where he said America “was never that great.” Photo from the Office of Gov. Andrew Cuomo/Flickr)