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Washington — Since 2016, President Donald Trump has claimed that he received  Michigan's "Man of the Year" award, and no one in Michigan seems to know what he is talking about.

Trump has repeated the claim at least six times since first bringing it up at a 2016 campaign rally in Sterling Heights, according to CNN. He raised the mysterious honor again Thursday night during a rally in New Hampshire. 

"In fact, five or six years before I even thought about running, for whatever reason they named me Man of the Year in Michigan. I said, how come? I didn't even understand it myself, but I was named Man of the Year," Trump said Thursday. 

"I wasn't even political. That was years before I did this, but I was always complaining that our car business is being stolen."

Former U.S. Rep. Dave Trott on Friday offered a possible back story to the origin of the claim that dates to 2013 when Trott organized the Oakland County Republican Party's Lincoln Day dinner in Novi and invited Trump to speak.  

Trump came and addressed the crowd of 2,300 to 2,400, speaking for about an hour.  Detroit News coverage of the dinner did not mention any awards bestowed upon Trump.

Years later, Trott introduced himself again to Trump in March 2017 during a roundtable with automotive CEOs held at the Willow Run Airport in Ypsilanti Township. 

At that point, Trump indicated he remembered Trott and, referring to the Lincoln Day dinner, told those gathered about receiving the "Man of the Year" award in Michigan.

"That's my basis for concluding that the Lincoln Dinner in May of '13 is what he's alluding to," said Trott, a Birmingham attorney. 

"I was the organizer and chair of that, and we weren't handing out Man of the Year awards and never have. That's not part of the club's mission."

The club did gift Trump, who was then a private citizen, a framed copy of the Gettysburg Address and maybe something else to thank him for his time, Trott said. 

When Trump mentioned the Man of the Year award at the 2017 roundtable, Trott just nodded, he recalled.

"Because I sure wasn’t comfortable correcting him in front of a group of automotive CEOs. It may be would've been embarrassing to him. Maybe not. I don't know. It would have been to me," Trott said. 

"I just nodded and said it was a great speech and pivoted to that. Which it was. The speech was very well-received. It was kind of a precursor to the speeches we hear these days, every day." 

The White House did not offer any evidence for the claim Friday. Fact-checkers from CNN, HuffPost and other outlets have ruled out other possible sources of the award including the Michigan Chamber of Commerce. 

Trump also never received The Detroit News' annual Michiganians of the Year honor, and he hasn't mentioned a similar award in his Twitter feed. 

Trott, who retired from Congress last year, is back in the private sector and speaking more freely these days. 

He's not 100 percent sure where Trump's claim originated but suggested "the easiest solution is for the governor to just give him the award." 

"Wouldn't that once and for all resolve the controversy?" said Trott, chuckling. 

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's office did not immediately comment on the possibility Friday. 

mburke@detroitnews.com

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