The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

This Harvard prank was not funny to Donald Trump.

Donald Trump greets supporters, tourists and the curious after taping an interview with Anderson Cooper. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

For eons, students at two of Harvard’s legendary publications have duked it out, periodically sneaking into one another’s offices to steal iconic symbols and do silly things with them.

It’s college. But it’s also Harvard, so even ridiculous pranks can rise to the level of, well, national news.

As this one did.

This is just one small chapter of a long, storied rivalry between the Harvard Crimson — impressive, serious-minded student newspaper, founded in 1873 — and the Harvard Lampoon, also impressive, but much funnier, and launched in 1876. (“United States President Ulysses S. Grant was advised not to read the magazine,” the Lampoon’s Web site notes, “as he would be too much ‘in stitches’ to run the government.”)

Short version: Sometimes Crimson staffers steal a large metal bird, an ibis, from the roof of the Lampoon’s offices and do kooky things with it. Sometimes Lampoon writers steal a fancy wooden chair from the Crimson and, ditto.

In June, presumably aghast students discovered, in their newspaper office, a casing for bolt cutters next to the severed chains that had once secured the chair —  which was gone, the Crimson reported. 

Then the president of the Crimson, Steven Lee, was contacted by Donald Trump’s staff, he told the Boston Globe. (Lee did not immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday.) A Web site appeared online with almost, but not quite, the Crimson’s URL. It announced that the Crimson was endorsing Donald Trump’s candidacy for president, and featured a photo of Trump in the grand chair, grinning and giving the thumbs-up sign, surrounded by smiling students.

It’s a really happy photo.

The “endorsement” was warm: “Donald J. Trump is known as a celebrity above all, and although some voters see his celebrity as an indication of style over substance, we would argue that this style is the very substance that elevates his candidacy above the rest of the GOP field. Trump’s unique brand of media ubiquity — whether on social media or primetime TV — lends him a highly valuable ability to both understand what Americans want and enact change to satisfy those needs.”

Also this: “The creative methods and avenues through which Trump has created jobs would likely make (former Crimson editor-in-chief) Franklin D. Roosevelt ’03 smile.”

Lee did not accuse the Lampoon of orchestrating the prank — and somehow, apparently, getting the chair into the Trump Tower in New York — but he did note to the Crimson that some of the students in the photo were Lampoon writers. The Crimson also ferreted out that the domain in question was registered to the Lampoon and a writer there, a rising senior.

Lampoon staffers did not respond to requests for comment from The Washington Post; perhaps they are laughing too hard.

Crimson staff thought it was funny, too.

Trump, apparently did not.

“The students who perpetrated this are fraudsters and liars, but frankly it was a waste of only a few minutes,” a Trump spokesperson responded when asked for his thoughts on the matter. “Mr. Trump attended the great Wharton School of Finance, a school that has more important things to do.”