NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo says Donald Trump has fooled many people in this country, but the Democrat says the Republican president hasn’t fooled New Yorkers.

Cuomo spoke Sunday at Brooklyn’s First Baptist Church of Crown Heights. He told the black congregation that the Statue of Liberty is a symbol of America’s acceptance of people of all races, beliefs, languages and lifestyles. By contrast, the governor said, the wall Trump wants built with Mexico represents rejection of those who are different. 

He also said the president “is blind to the suffering and pain of gun violence” — especially in minority communities.

Cuomo sparked a political firestorm Wednesday after saying America was “never that great” while signing a bill aimed at levying stricter penalties against sex traffickers.

“The simple point is all this comes down to: We’re not going to make America great again. It was never that great,” he said in an attempted jab at the president’s “Make America Great Again” slogan.

There were gasps from the audience and Cuomo tried to explain himself.

“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,” he said.

Republicans, including the president, fired back.

“Can you believe this is the Governor of the Highest Taxed State in the U.S., Andrew Cuomo, having a total meltdown!” Trump tweeted.

State Republican Chairman Ed Cox added, “It’s shocking that Andrew Cuomo would make such an offensive remark that insults the people of this country, the ideals upon which she was founded.”

Cuomo’s gubernatorial opponents took the opportunity to pounce on the incumbent.

“Andrew Cuomo is struggling really hard to sound like a progressive,” former “Sex and the City” star and Democratic challenger Cynthia Nixon said Thursday morning. “Obviously the greatest thing about America has always been the promise of America — the promise of America as being a place of freedom and opportunity for all.”

Republican candidate Marc Molinaro posted, “Tell those who gave their lives in service to a grateful nation… America, with its imperfections, has always been great.”

In a conference call later in the week, Cuomo conceded he could have said things differently.

“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.”

But Cuomo then went on a scathing attack against the president.

“His philosophy is not just repugnant to New York, his philosophy is anti-American,” Cuomo said. “The President is vindictive and petty and small”

The governor also touched on Trump’s attitude toward women, citing former White House staffer Omarosa Manigault Newman, whom Trump has called a “dog” and a “lowlife,” during his Sunday speech.

Cuomo faces Nixon in next month’s Democratic primary. The two will square off in a one-on-one debate at Hofstra University on Wednesday, Aug. 29, airing at 7 p.m. on CBS2.

(© Copyright 2018 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)