America "was never that great" and won't be great until all Americans share true equality, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Wednesday in a speech blasting Republican President Donald Trump and his slogan, "Make America Great Again."
Cuomo, who is considered a potential White House contender in 2020, made the remarks at a bill signing event in Manhattan. He said Trump wants to return to a period of greater sexism, racism and intolerance toward immigrants. He said New York would strive to be a liberal alternative where people of all backgrounds are welcome.
"We're not going to make America great again - it was never that great" said Cuomo, who is running for a third term this November. "We have not reached greatness. We will reach greatness when every American is fully engaged."
The crowd at the event reacted with surprised gasps and laughter to the comments, which were highly unusual for a politician of Cuomo's stature and experience.
Republicans quickly pounced.
"America, with its imperfections, has always been great," said Marc Molinaro, the Dutchess County executive who faces Cuomo in this year's election. "Mr. Cuomo owes the nation an apology. He should be ashamed of himself."
Brian Kolb, the minority leader of the state Assembly, tweeted that Cuomo's remark was "inexcusable & reprehensible."
The war of words between Cuomo and Trump, a native New Yorker, escalated in recent days when Trump, on a visit to upstate New York, said Cuomo had called him and promised not to challenge Trump in 2020. Cuomo denied the president's account.
Cuomo faces former "Sex and the City" star Cynthia Nixon in next month's Democratic primary.