Harvard students pull elaborate prank on Donald Trump, rival newspaper

A student group endorsed the Donald for president—as a joke.

Pranksters posed as editors of The Harvard Crimson to falsely endorse Donald Trump for president.
Pranksters posed as editors of The Harvard Crimson to falsely endorse Donald Trump for president. –Screenshot from theharvardcrimson.co

At the end of June, The Harvard Crimson’s prized president’s chair went missing. A few weeks later, Donald Trump was sitting in it.

The Crimson, Harvard University’s daily student newspaper, has a historic rivalry with The Harvard Lampoon, the university’s student humor magazine. For years, each has tried to steal the other’s iconic symbol—for The Crimson it’s the wooden president’s chair and for The Lampoon it’s a large metal Ibis bird that graces the top of their building.

“There’s been a lot of back and forth the last several decades,’’ Steven Lee, The Crimson’s president, told Boston.com.

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Crimson editors returned to their office at the end of June and immediately realized that the chair was missing, cut free from the chains that secured it to the wall. A few weeks later, a photo of presidential candidate hopeful Donald Trump sitting in the chair surrounded by a group of students surfaced—along with a lengthy endorsement for him as the Republican nominee, signed by The Crimson staff.

“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,’’ the endorsement read. “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.’’

The photo, in which Trump is all smiles and thumbs up as he poses with some Ivy League students, was published to thecrimson.co, rather than the actual paper’s website, thecrimson.com, last Wednesday. The photo appears to have been taken in the Trump Tower in New York, The Crimson reported.

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While Lee can’t say that all of those in the photo are Lampoon staffers, he confirmed with full certainty that some of those pictured are writers for the university’s humor magazine.

The fake site looks convincing. It has the same layout and design as The Crimson’s website, and even links back to the different sections of the real Crimson.

Lee became aware of the prank when a representative of Trump’s campaign contacted him after receiving a copy of it pre-publication. He came to realize that other individuals had been posing as Crimson editors, even creating a fraudulent email address claiming to be editors of The Crimson in order to contact Trump’s staff. The fake endorsement first appeared earlier in July before it was removed. It was re-published on Wednesday, July 29, Lee says that The Crimson had nothing to do with its disappearance or reappearance.

The endorsement’s authors also cited former presidential and Crimson connections, just for a little extra convincing.

“The creative methods and avenues through which Trump has created jobs would likely make (former Crimson editor-in-chief) Franklin D. Roosevelt ’03 smile,’’ the endorsement noted.

Now, the chair has been returned and The Crimson and editors are doing everything in their power to assure its safety. As for an actual Trump endorsement, Lee says it’s too soon to say. The editors vote as a whole on who the university’s daily will endorse. Until then, The Crimson isn’t endorsing any candidates, and instead is focusing on having a laugh and protecting the chair from future theft.

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“I think this is all in good fun,’’ Lee said. “We all had a good laugh at it.’’

While Harvard students might be laughing, Trump isn’t.

“The students who perpetrated this are fraudsters and liars, but frankly it was a waste of only a few minutes. Mr. Trump attended the great Wharton School of Finance, a school that has more important things to do,’’ a Trump spokesperson said in a statement to Boston.com.

The Harvard Lampoon did not immediately return a request for comment.

Related gallery: 2016 presidential candidates

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