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Where have copies of NOW's naked Ford issue gone?

A copy of Now magazine featuring an altered picture of Toronto Mayor Rob Ford in underwear can be seen across City Hall on Queen St., Toronto March 31, 2011.

Fernando Morales/Fernando Morales/The Globe and M

The naked truth about the fate of NOW magazine on city property is proving elusive to pin down.

The weekly tabloid claims its magazines, featuring photo-shopped photos of a scantily clad Rob Ford, were yanked from City Hall by order of the mayor's office.

NOW said they got their hands on an email request to Lorraine Pickett, supervisor of custodial services, dated 9 a.m. on Thursday with directions to "remove all NOW newspapers from all City of Toronto locations/facilities asap. Please remove and dispose."

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A quick check revealed City Hall's newsstands were suspiciously devoid of copies of the newsmagazine Thursday afternoon. NOW also contacted Ms. Pickett who confirmed the email had gone out.

"We're in complete shock ... just outraged," said Alice Klein, editor and CEO of NOW.

The cover of the March 31 issue features a scantily clad mayor, accompanied by a lengthy political commentary on the mayor's ambitions. The inside cover features a photo-shopped nude Rob Ford with a can labelled gravy train covering his genitalia.

"It's tongue-and-check," Ms. Klein said. "It's completely in the tradition of political caricature."

The mayor's office had received many complaints about the cover. But poor taste aside, Adrienne Batra, the mayor's press secretary, flatly denied that any such order to yank the copies went out from the political office.

"That's just not true," Ms. Batra said. "There was nothing from the mayor's office saying we want the magazine removed. Mayor Ford has taken a lot of criticism from a lot off media outlets and this is no different."

She suggested there might have been some miscommunication when the mayor's staff looked into policies of newspaper and magazine distribution at city facilities.

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And while Mayor Ford is the focus of NOW's current issue, a one-page article on election coverage also feature doctored, buff photos of Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff and NDP leader Jack Layton wearing red bikini briefs as they face off with an un-buff Stephen Harper, clad in white boxers. So far, no one has contacted the NOW about those photos, Ms. Klein said.

Councillor Adam Vaughan said he handed out copies of the NOW to people at City Hall who were desperately trying to get a hold of the paper after the news exploded in the Twitterverse that the mayor's office had allegedly banned the paper.

"I was disturbed that that an established newspaper was treated in this way," Mr. Vaughan. "It's a cartoon for god's sake. If you can't take the heat as a politician, then you should get out of the kitchen."

If the mayor ordered them chucked out, then Mr. Vaughan cheekily said he hoped the newspapers were at least recycled and not thrown in a garbage pile. NOW Magazine wants their magazines to be restored to the newsstands and are considering legal action, saying their freedom of expression has been breached.

This isn't the first time city officials have been accused of censorship of NOW. North York officials proposed banning the distribution of the newsmagazine at North York's city hall in 1988 because of its so-called pornographic ads.

At the time, North York councillor Marie Labatte said women working in her office objected to ads such as one for a comic book that featured a bound and chained woman, while some men said they found personal ads for gay men offensive.

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When a majority of North York council members voted to ban NOW from the municipality, Councillor Howard Moscoe distributed NOW from his office. Later, as the deputy mayor under Mel Lastman, he ordered a plaque honouring NOW with a literary award.

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