Andrew Cuomo
Gov. Andrew Cuomo spoke Wednesday, Aug. 15, 2018, at a bill signing in Manhattan to make it a felony to engage in sex trafficking. He was criticized for comments that America "was never great."
New York Governor's Office

ALBANY, N.Y. – New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Friday walked back his controversial comments about American greatness from earlier in the week, calling them "inartful" and saying he believes the country "has always been great."

Cuomo, a Democrat, had been facing continued backlash from President Donald Trump and the governor's Republican foes after saying America "was never that great" while taking a jab at Trump's campaign slogan during a speech in Manhattan on Wednesday.

During a conference call with reporters Friday, Cuomo dialed it back, saying he does not, in fact, question the country's greatness.

"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."

He continued: "As you know, my family is evidence of American greatness. 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."

Aug. 16: Trump, GOP rip Andrew Cuomo for saying America 'was never that great'

Trump has continued to knock Cuomo for his Wednesday remark, tweeting three times about it Friday morning alone.

"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!"

Cuomo's initial comments came during a speech on women's rights Wednesday, when he tried to make the case that Trump's campaign slogan — Make America Great Again — suggests bringing the country back to earlier times when discrimination, misogyny and racism were rampant.

On Friday, Cuomo reiterated his point while directly and repeatedly criticizing Trump, accusing him of unfairly targeting New York with the federal tax reform and other federal actions. 

Aug. 15: New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo: America 'was never that great'

What Trump believes is American greatness "is not greatness at all," Cuomo said.

"His philosophy is not just repugnant to New York," Cuomo said. "His philosophy is anti-American. His vision of America isn't great at all. Taking children from the arms of their mothers is anti-American. Americans don't believe in family separation."

Follow Jon Campbell on Twitter: @JonCampbellGAN