To hear Donald Trump tell it, the story of how Carrier decided not to move jobs to Mexico started when the president-elect was watching the evening news about a week ago.
"And they had a gentleman, worker, great guy, handsome guy, he was on, and it was like he didn't even know they were leaving. He said something to the effect, 'No, we're not leaving, because Donald Trump promised us that we're not leaving,' " Trump said Thursday.
It was all news to Trump, who was taken aback at the idea that he promised to keep Carrier jobs in the United States.
"And I never thought I made that promise. Not with Carrier. I made it for everybody else. I didn't make it really for Carrier," Trump said.
In fact, Trump repeatedly pledged to keep Carrier jobs in the United States after the Indiana-based air conditioning and heating systems maker said it would move 1,400 jobs to Mexico. The vow became a rallying cry for Trump and his supporters — one that the real estate developer repeatedly stated on the campaign trail.
"We're not going to let Carrier leave," Trump said in Indiana in April. "Because say what you want, Indiana. I've been talking about Carrier now for four months, right?"
But Trump seems to have forgotten that major part of his campaign. Until he saw the man on television. The employee said he voted for Trump and believed the president-elect's promise to prevent the jobs from going offshore. The man's father was apparently in the room where Trump was speaking.
"Well, your son is great, and he meant that, didn't he? He really meant that," Trump told the man. "At first I said, 'I wonder if he's being sarcastic, because this ship has sailed.' "
Trump has shown a willingness to change some of his firmest positions and that he can be easily persuaded — he tends to echo the last thing a person told him or something he saw on television. But the man — and others at the Carrier plant — took Trump at his word. Yet the president-elect said he didn't remember making that promise, despite repeating it over and over again.
"I actually said I didn't make it. When they played it I said, 'I did make it, but I didn't mean it quite that way,' " Trump said. It was, he explained: "A euphemism. I was talking about Carrier like all other companies from here on in, because they made the decision a year and a half ago."
"We want you to do what you said you were going to do. We're going to hold you accountable," one man said. He said of Trump: "If he could come here and save these 1,400 jobs here tomorrow, I'll gladly vote for him again."
After watching the news, Trump said he had the idea to call the head of Carrier — but then decided to reach out Greg Hayes, the CEO of its parent company, United Technologies Corp. Trump on Thursday defended directly intervening with a company looking to move overseas, potentially opening the door to unprecedented corporate intervention by a sitting president.
"I called Greg, and I said, 'It's really important; we have to do something. Because you have a lot of people leaving and you have to understand, we can't allow this to happen anymore with our country,'" Trump said. "'We got to sit down. We got to do something.' And I said, 'Because we just can't let it happen.'"
Under the terms of the incentive package, Carrier would receive $7 million in incentives from Indiana in exchange for a $16 million investment in the facility over the next two years. Trump said Thursday that amount would likely be higher. Carrier said the deal is contingent on employment, job retention and capital investment. The company still plans to shift manufacturing to Mexico from a different Indiana plant that employs about 700 people.
Despite saying he didn't remember his promise, Trump is now fully claiming that his intervention kept the jobs in the United States — and said the man on television deserved credit.
"Only because of your son, OK, believe me," he told the father in the room. "Your son, whoever the hell your son is, these people owe him a lot."