Come at me, New England! (Scott Eisen/Getty Images)

CNN touts itself as the “The most trusted name in news,” so we’ll just have to take Jake Tapper’s word for it: The Patriots are cheaters.

The CNN anchor made that eye-opening pronouncement on his network’s airwaves Monday, but before New Englanders grab their pitchforks, they should be advised that the ardent Eagles fan was engaging in some pre-Super Bowl trash talk.

Okay, that’s not likely to quell irritation at Tapper from Patriots supporters, who have long bristled at suggestions that the team’s unprecedented run of success has to do with anything but unparalleled hard work, focus and the sustained brilliance of Bill Belichick and Tom Brady. For those questioning Tapper’s news judgment Monday, though, the Philadelphia native was happy to share on social media a 2015 ESPN article titled, “Spygate to Deflategate: Inside what split the NFL and Patriots apart.”

Tapper saw fit to impugn the Patriots’ organizational integrity during an exchange with fellow CNN anchor Brooke Baldwin, who noted that Tapper and his father were at Philadelphia’s Lincoln Financial Field on Sunday to see their beloved squad destroy the Vikings in the NFC championship game. After calling it “a dream to go” to the “unbelievable” game, Tapper was joined in pro-Eagles fandom, at least temporarily, by Baldwin, who said she still wasn’t over the way New England broke the hearts of her and other Falcons supporters in last year’s Super Bowl.

“The Patriots are cheaters, Brooke. The Patriots cheat,” the 48-year-old Tapper replied with a bit of a smirk. “I mean, this is just a fact, as established by investigations. They’re a cheating team … The facts speak for themselves.”

In their exchange, Baldwin wished Tapper “good luck” in peddling his “cheaters” accusations to another CNN anchor, John Berman, a Massachusetts native and lifelong Patriots fan. Berman subsequently saw fit to jab at Tapper with a “Crisco” line that referred both to Philadelphia’s unsuccessful attempts Sunday to foil traffic light-climbing Eagles fans and to … something about his colleague’s personal preferences. Tapper returned fire with references to Deflategate and Berman’s alma mater, Harvard.

Yet another notable CNN figure, national security correspondent Jim Sciutto, joined the fray. He retweeted a post by presidential historian Michael Beschloss showing one of the “earliest photos of Philadelphia,” with Sciutto asking Tapper, “was that around the time of the city’s last major sports championship?”

Tapper swatted that shot aside, noting that the “Phillies won the World Series in 2008,” to which Sciutto replied, “Yes, I’ll grant that one bright spot since the 82-83 Sixers.” A New York native, Sciutto then struck a less chesty note by saying, “Of course this is coming from a giants fan whose lone bright spot this season will be the second pick of the draft.”

Other Twitter users also caught the attention of Tapper, who had begun trolling the Patriots on Twitter Monday morning. Eventually, though, it appeared that he was almost ready to tap out.

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