It’s to be expected there would be an outpouring of sympathy for Ann Curry given her tearful goodbye Thursday on “The Today Show.” Another less obvious outcome of her exit: open hostility via social media for Matt Lauer. Matt_lauer

Perhaps it was the on-air departure that many observers felt displayed an awkwardness between Curry and Lauer, whose attempt to land a goodbye kiss didn’t quite connect with her cheek. Or maybe it was press reports preceding the televised farewell suggesting Lauer agitated for Curry’s ouster in a bid to help “Today” fight off a ratings challenge from rival “Good Morning America.”

Either way, a simple Twitter search for Matt Lauer or his Twitter handle, @mlauer, reveals hundreds of tweets–with few exceptions–knocking the anchor with accusations of betraying Curry. 

“Could’ve been handled so much better….” tweeted @RealPegster. “I really lost all respect for @mlauer….”

And that’s just one of the tame ones. “Judas” was a familiar refrain in some of the anti-Lauer tweets, as was a certain pejorative that starts with a “d” but has no business being repeated in a family newspaper website. The tweets also dredged up a flurry of unsubstantiated tabloid reports disparaging the state of Lauer’s marriage, which probably doesn’t need much help spreading virally in the first place.

Just some temporary venting from a small portion of the audience who may not even remember Curry by next week? Maybe. Or perhaps the beginning of a groundswell being whipped up the way only social media can, delivering the kind of reputation-altering controversy that may come back to haunt Lauer and NBC, which recently re-signed him to a lucrative long-term deal to stay on “Today.” The Peacock has been here before, having seen both the company and Jay Leno take a serious beating on Twitter during another tempestuous sign-off at the network involving Conan O’Brien.

Which isn’t to say Lauer didn’t have some supporters too, though they were far outnumbered by the detractors. 

“Class act from @anncurry this morning. And thanks to @MLauer for being a supportive co-host and friend. Brava,” tweeted @RosieBoo65.

NBC is going to have to be careful how the optics play out on air, especially with the eventual crowning of expected replacement Savannah Guthrie and future appearances by Curry on “Today.”