New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, told reporters on Friday that "America has always been great" after he was slammed by President Donald Trump for saying this week that the country "was never that great."
Cuomo, whose name has been floated as a potential Democratic 2020 presidential candidate, qualified his comments in a conference call.
"The expression I used the other day was inartful, so I want to be very clear: Of course America is great, and of course America has always been great — no one questions that," the governor said.
"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, so that's never been a question," he added.
In a speech in New York City on Wednesday, Cuomo remarked: "We not going to make America great again. It was never that great" — prompting some in the audience to laugh and others to gasp.
Shortly before Cuomo walked back his comments on Friday, Trump tweeted that the governor's remarks were "really dumb" and that Cuomo had "choked."
After Cuomo's about face, Trump kept up his assault.
In his remarks on Friday, Cuomo claimed the direction Trump's presidency is taking the country is why he made the statement.
"Where he is taking this country, in my opinion, is the antithesis of American greatness," Cuomo said.
The governor also shot backed at Trump's claim earlier in the week that New York is the highest taxed state, calling it inaccurate and describing the president as "vindictive, and petty, and small."
"No, Mr. President, you're supposed to know numbers right? I lowered taxes — he knows that because he was a New Yorker. He raised taxes in New York when he passed tax reform with a poison pill — a missile aimed at New York — that eliminated the deductibility of state and local taxes," Cuomo added.
Cuomo is running for re-election and faces a Democratic primary challenge from actress Cynthia Nixon on Sept. 13.