Washington(CNN) President Donald Trump has a favorite way to illustrate what he says is the strength of his relationship with the critical swing state he is visiting on Thursday.
He tells a story about how he was once named Michigan's "Man of the Year," though there is no evidence this ever happened.
It's worth fact checking the tale again since Trump uttered it Wednesday for at least the sixth time as President. The latest version came a day before he visits a Ford plant outside Detroit -- and hours after he threatened to deny funding to the state over a decision by its Democratic secretary of state to send applications for absentee ballots to all 7.7 million registered voters.
Trump, who has consistently trailed in Michigan polls against presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden, was asked if he is concerned about the message he is sending by threatening Michigan as it is going through a flooding emergency.
Trump's response: "No, I'm not. I'm -- no, I'm not concerned at all. We're going to help Michigan. Michigan is a great state. I've gotten tremendous business to go to Michigan. Michigan is one of the reasons I ran. I was honored in Michigan long before I thought about -- I was honored as the Man of the Year in Michigan at a big event."
He continued: "I remember so well." He claimed this happened at an event about five or six years before he thought about running for president, where he gave a speech decrying the loss of Michigan auto business to Mexico. "And I posed many questions to Michigan that night, and I think it think made quite an impression," he said.
Mystery apparently solved
Trump started telling versions of the Man of the Year story two days before Election Day in 2016, when he was making a successful effort to win a state no Republican presidential candidate had carried since 1988.
Journalists tried and failed to figure out what he was talking about. (For one, the state does not have an official Man of the Year award. For two, Trump had never lived in Michigan.) In an August 2019 telling, Trump himself said he had been confused about why he had supposedly gotten the award: "I said, 'How come?' I didn't even understand it myself."
Then a former Republican congressman from Michigan, Dave Trott, contacted CNN and other news outlets to solve the mystery.
Trott offered a convincing explanation: Trump was talking about his speech at an event Trott had organized, a Lincoln Day dinner for Republicans in Oakland County, Michigan, in 2013.
There, Trott said, Trump gave a "rambling" address resembling the one he says he did -- and Trott gave him a framed copy of Lincoln's Gettysburg Address and other gifts. But Trott did not give him any Man of the Year award, and nor did anyone else.
Trott, a two-term congressman who decided against running again in 2018 and now says Trump is "unfit for office," told CNN last year that he was unwilling to correct the President to his face at an auto industry roundtable in 2017 where Trump appeared to thank him over the nonexistent award.
"But now that I'm out of Congress, I feel comfortable correcting the story," Trott said in 2019.
Dishonesty on top of dishonesty
The Man of the Year story is more trivial than many of Trump's serious lies. But it's more evidence of how a man whose golf clubs showcased a fake Time cover of himself and who relentlessly inflated his reality TV ratings is willing to deceive about the smallest things to make himself look better -- or, if you're feeling charitable, to err over and over again without correcting himself.
Trump delivered the latest rendition of the Man of the Year story as he was being pressed about the false story he told about Michigan earlier in the day, when he wrongly claimed Michigan's secretary of state had sent actual absentee ballots to all voters (it was just ballot applications) and that she had broken the law (no).
In other words, the President was using dishonesty to defend himself during a controversy focused on his dishonesty.