"America was never that great."
Did New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo really say that?
Yes, yet his supporters quickly jumped on the news media and Republican supporters of his November challenger, Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro, and President Donald Trump as somehow twisting and exaggerating Cuomo's remarks.
Cuomo, of New Castle, made the seemingly offhand remark as part of his rebuke of Trump's "Make America Great Again" slogan during a bill-signing ceremony in New York. But the line drew immediate 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 laughter.
“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,” Cuomo said.
Republican gubernatorial candidate Molinaro called on Cuomo to apologize, saying, America “with its imperfections, has always been great."
"I never thought I would see a day when a Governor of the State New York would sink to such a level," Molinaro said. "The truth is, this is how Andrew Cuomo really feels. It slipped out in a botched attempt to get an applause line -- but if you listen to the groans in his handpicked audience, even they know better."
"Mr. Cuomo owes the nation an apology. He should be ashamed of himself," Molinaro said.
Cuomo has been promoting himself as one of the biggest gubernatorial foes of the Trump Administration. Meanwhile, he faces a September primary challenge from "Sex And The City" actor and education activist Cynthia Nixon of Manhattan.
Within hours of the comments that went viral on Wednesday, a Cuomo spokeswoman was doing damage control:
In a prepared statement, Dani Lever, Cuomo's press secretary, said: “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,”
Lever added: “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.”
Molinaro added: "Andrew Cuomo is so desperate to win reelection he will do anything and say anything -- today he stooped to dishonoring our nation."
"But when you surround yourself with crooks and felons it's hard to believe in the greatness of anything," Molinaro added.
"The truth is Andrew Cuomo has joined the far left who have never believed in America. He is unfit to lead a state that has represented a better future for millions from every corner of the global. Including his own grandparents," Molinaro said.
"His remarks are a disgrace to all those who have sacrificed throughout our 242 years as a nation to make this country great, to make our nation the beacon of hope and liberty throughout the world," Molinaro said.
President Trump pounced on Cuomo's comments on Twitter, starting with an all-caps sentence:
“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!
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