MSNBC was shocked -- shocked, I tell you -- to learn that its well-known homophobe host Michael Savage is actually -- gasp! -- homophobic, and the network has sacked him, effective immediately.

The firing came two days after Savage's most recent MSNBC telecast, during which he suggested to a gay caller that he should "get AIDS and die" or, alternatively, "go eat a sausage and choke on it -- get trichinosis."

This afternoon, MSNBC Vice President Jeremy Gaines was telling reporters that "in reaction to a hostile caller, Savage made an extremely inappropriate comment and the decision to cancel the program was not difficult."

The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation was dancing the Happy Dance, taking credit for having brought Savage's comments to the attention of MSNBC suits, who, the group concludes, must not have been among the 350,000 or so who actually watched "The Savage Nation." GLAAD had been aggressively campaigning to get Savage booted off MSNBC since the network announced his hire in February.

MSNBC, however, insists it was fully aware of the comments Savage made on Saturday, and that's why the news division acted so promptly today. Apparently, Sunday is not a workday at NBC News.

Immediately after deciding to whack Savage, MSNBC chief Erik Sorenson, as he has so often in the past couple of years, became hopelessly lost in the Land of Not Available and could not be found for comment. Our thoughts are with him and his family and we wish him another safe return.

To his credit, Sorenson has kept his word, having promised the St. Petersburg Times, among other newspapers, shortly before "The Savage Nation" debuted on MSNBC in March, that the kind of incendiary comments Savage spews on his radio show would not be heard on his cable television program and "if they do happen, they won't happen more than once."

We also were unable to reach Sacked Savage by press time to inquire about the momentary lapse that caused him to forget that during drive-time weekdays he's the Savage Michael Savage, foe of "Turd World" countries and Hispanics who "breed like rabbits" -- but on Saturdays at 5 p.m., he's Rational, Reasonable and Yes, a Little Bit Conservative NBC News Employee Michael Savage.

Savage's comments came during what was intended to be a discussion of "airline horror stories." An unidentified male phone caller was regaling Savage with an amusing little anecdote about a fellow passenger who had been caught lighting up in the airplane's bathroom.

"Half an hour into the flight, I need to suggest that Don and Mike take your . . ." he was saying when some fast-thinking MSNBC producer cut him off. Alas, the world will never know what the caller believed popular raunchy radio shock jocks Don Geronimo and Mike O'Meara should take of Savage's and what should be done with it.

As so often happens in the rough-and-tumble world of live call-in TV, while the hard-working producer is fully prepared to bleep an unruly caller, he/she is not equipped to quickly bleep the host. That is why the world did get to hear Savage respond to the caller's censored suggestion:

"So you're one of those sodomists -- are you a sodomite?"

Caller: "Yes, I am."

Savage: "Oh, you're one of the sodomites. You should only get AIDS and die, you pig. How's that? Why don't you see if you can sue me, you pig. You got nothing better than to put me down, you piece of garbage. You have got nothing to do today -- go eat a sausage and choke on it. Get trichinosis."

Later in the show, during a discussion of the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision invalidating state anti-sodomy laws, the words "Supreme Court Sodomizes America" were seen on the screen, according to GLAAD, which today put out a statement saying it was "about time" MSNBC canned Savage.

"This latest attack made the clearest case for why Savage has no place on any reputable news network," GLAAD representative Cathy Renna said in the statement. "MSNBC witnessed firsthand exactly the kind of verbal assaults GLAAD's been warning them about for the past five months, and to their credit, they backed up their promises to hold Savage accountable."

NBC was not without its sense of humor about Savage. On several occasions during his program, it ran one of its lame "The More You Know" public service announcements -- the one in which Eric McCormack (who plays gay attorney Will Truman on the sitcom "Will & Grace") sniffs at viewers that "hate" is a four-letter word.

Ranting homophobe Michael Savage went about 50 miles over the line.