New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo may have just handed Republicans a ready-made campaign ad for his rumored 2020 presidential bid – by declaring Wednesday that America “was never that great.”
The Democratic star made the seemingly offhand remark as part of his rebuke of President Trump's "Make America Great Again" slogan during a bill-signing in New York. But the line drew gasps from the crowd.
“We’re not going to make America great again. It was never that great,” Cuomo said, to an awkward blend of gasps and chuckles.
“We have not reached greatness, we will reach greatness when every American is fully engaged, we will reach greatness when discrimination and stereotyping against women, 51 percent of our population, is gone and every woman’s full potential is realized and unleashed and every woman is making her full contribution,” he said.
Within hours, his spokeswoman tried walking it back. “The Governor believes America is great and that her full greatness will be fully realized when every man, woman, and child has full equality. America has not yet reached its maximum potential,” Cuomo's 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. The Governor believes that when everyone is fully included and everyone is contributing to their maximum potential, that is when America will achieve maximum greatness.”
But the “never that great” line tore through social media in a New York minute, as journalists and his political rivals seized on the remark.
Republican gubernatorial candidate Marc Molinaro said America, “with its imperfections, has always been great” and called on Cuomo to apologize.
“This governor is so determined to distract voters from his failed policies and corrupted administration that he’s willing to dismiss the steady, determined march of the American people, making and remaking the greatness of America. Mr. Cuomo owes the nation an apology,” he said in a statement. “He should be ashamed of himself."
Cuomo for months has been positioning himself as one of the biggest gubernatorial foes of the Trump White House. He also is facing a primary challenge from the left from actress and activist Cynthia Nixon.
Nixon has made a number of controversial statements, including calling Immigration and Customs Enforcement a terrorist organization, and has claimed Cuomo is shifting to the left in response.
“It’s called The Cynthia Effect,” Nixon said in a speech in May. “Since I got in the race, Cuomo has moved left not only on marijuana, but climate change, teacher evaluations, restoring voting rights and banning plastic bags.”
But it remains to be seen whether Cuomo's stances in the New York race could come back to haunt a 2020 bid. Earlier this week while addressing New York Republicans, Trump dared Cuomo to run against him.
“Please do it. Please,” the president said in Utica, adding that “anybody that runs against Trump suffers.”
Fox News’ Barnini Chakraborty and Mike Arroyo contributed to this report.