Cuomo Backpedals: ‘My Family Is Evidence of American Greatness’

New York governor walks back controversial remarks saying America was 'never that great'

Governor Cuomo / Getty Images
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D.) / Getty Images

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D.) appears to be feeling the backlash after saying earlier this week that America "was never that great."

Cuomo held a conference call with reporters on Friday in which he attempted to walk back his controversial remarks from two days earlier, saying that "of course America is great" and his "family is evidence" why, according to the Democrat and Chronicle.

"The expression I used the other day was inartful, so I want to be very clear," Cuomo said. "Of course America is great and of course America has always been great. No one questions that."

Cuomo, the eldest son of the late New York Gov. Mario Cuomo, added that if anyone wanted proof of "American greatness," they needed to look no further than his family.

"As you know, my family is evidence of American greatness," Cuomo said. "My grandparents came to this country as poor immigrants and their son became governor and his son became governor. That's never been a question."

Cuomo, a potential Democratic presidential candidate in 2020, held the conference call after stirring controversy with a statement he made on Wednesday to take a shot at President Donald Trump and his "make America great again" slogan. Speaking at an event for women and girls, Cuomo said that "we are not going to ‘make America great again'" because America "was never that great" in the first place.

Cuomo's comment elicited rebuke from Trump, who initially responded that Cuomo was "having a total meltdown." Trump took to social media on Friday to further slam the governor, claiming he made a "really dumb statement" and "choked."

"Wow! Big pushback on Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York for his really dumb statement about America's lack of greatness," Trump tweeted. "I have already MADE America Great Again, just look at the markets, jobs, military- setting records, and we will do even better. Andrew ‘choked' badly, mistake!"

The controversy hits Cuomo's administration at an inopportune political moment. Cuomo, who has served as the Empire State's chief executive since January 2011, is facing a challenge from both progressives and conservatives in his quest to secure a third term this year. Shortly after the governor's statements became public, his political opponents seized on them.

The Republican nominee for governor of New York, Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro, lambasted Cuomo on Wednesday, saying the governor "should be ashamed of himself" and owed the country "an apology." Cynthia Nixon, a former "Sex and the City" actress challenging Cuomo from the left in the Democratic primary, added her voice to the criticism, claiming the governor's gaffe was another example of him "trying to figure out what a progressive sounds like and missing by a mile."