New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is facing a deluge of criticism for declaring America "was never that great" — with even liberal gubernatorial rival Cynthia Nixon mocking him for what she called a ham-fisted attempt to sound like a progressive.
Cuomo sparked gasps from supporters at a bill-signing ceremony on Wednesday when he took a shot at President Trump’s “Make America Great Again” slogan, saying: “We’re not going to make America great again. It was never that great.”
“We have not reached greatness, we will reach greatness when every America is fully engaged, we will reach greatness when discrimination and stereotyping against women, 51 percent of our population, is gone,” he said.
The remark zipped around social media within minutes, leading to an avalanche of criticism from commentators and political rivals.
Nixon, who is trying to unseat Cuomo in the primary, mocked the establishment Democrat by suggesting it was part of his efforts to fend off her left-wing challenge; she has previously claimed “The Cynthia Effect” has pressured Cuomo to adopt more left-wing stances.
"I think this is just another example of Andrew Cuomo trying to figure out what a progressive sounds like and missing by a mile," the activist and “Sex and the City” actress told NY1 on Wednesday.
Cuomo was also hit from the right, where longshot Republican challenger Marc Molinaro said he was “ashamed and shocked” at the remarks and called on Cuomo to apologize.
“Even with our imperfections, this nation, its promise, its purpose, its principles and its people have always been great and that determined march toward making things better, that’s what has always made America great,” he said on “Fox & Friends” Thursday. “I’m ashamed to think my governor doesn’t know that.”
The controversy stirred up New York politics, but with Cuomo’s presence as a nationally known figure and amid rumors of a 2020 Democratic presidential run, it also took a national turn. President Trump accused Cuomo of having a “total meltdown.”
“Can you believe this is the Governor of the Highest Taxed State in the U.S., Andrew Cuomo, having a total meltdown!” he tweeted.
Cuomo responded by tweeting to Trump: "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’s office, meanwhile, was walking back his statement, saying that Cuomo does in fact believe America to be great.
“The governor believes America is great and that her full greatness will be fully realized when every man, woman and child has full equality,” his office said in a statement. “America has not yet reached its maximum potential.”
While Cuomo’s remarks may represent part of a broader tilt by Democratic candidates toward more open statements about America's alleged failings, it also has echoes of his late father Mario Cuomo’s speech at the 1984 Democratic National Convention.
In that address, the senior Cuomo took issue with then-President Ronald Reagan calling America “a shining city on a hill.” While the elder Cuomo -- also a New York governor -- accepted that “in many ways we are a shining city on a hill,” he said that not everyone shares in its splendor.
He spoke of a second city, in which people can’t pay mortgages, students can’t afford education, the elderly “tremble in the basements” and people sleep in the streets “where the glitter doesn’t show.”
“Mr. President you ought to know that this nation is more a ‘Tale of Two Cities’ than it is just a ‘Shining City on a Hill,’” he said in a Dickensian flourish.
Yet he described himself as occupying the highest seat “in the greatest state, in the greatest nation” in the world.