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The front cover of this week's issue of Now, a weekly publication, features a digitally altered image of Toronto Mayor Rob Ford. (Now)

The publisher of the weekly Now publication says he is considering legal action after copies featuring Toronto Mayor Rob Ford, shown in digitally altered photos that make him appear nearly nude, were removed from City Hall.

The latest issue of the magazine-style newspaper, distributed Thursday, featured a hired actor wearing only underwear with Ford's face pasted on. Another doctored picture depicts the smiling mayor with a can labelled "gravy train" obscuring the model's genitals.

The issue features a critical article on Ford and his politics.

An internal memo was circulated at City Hall to pull the publication from the building.

The mayor's office attributed that to poor communication and said the mayor took the issue in good humour.

"We looked into the policy specifically when it comes to having magazine and newspapers within city facilities, and I think perhaps there was a bit of a miscommunication saying that the mayor's office wanted it removed," said Adrienne Batra, a spokeswoman for Ford's office.

'Exploring our legal options'

Now's editor-publisher, Michael Hollett, cast doubt on that explanation. He said the mayor's office has yet to communicate with the paper.

"I mean it's pretty odious, this whole notion of punishing people for ideas you don't agree with and try to make it go away," he said, acknowledging pictures were a shameless ploy for attention.

"We're definitely exploring what our legal options are…we can't let these kind of attacks go unresponded to."

The photos have caused a stir online, with some Tweeters joking about the issue. But many have criticized the pictures, calling them childish or distasteful, particularly because body-image issues come into play.

Hollett said it's fair to publish the pictures because Ford has played "the large man card" himself.  Hollett said Ford has referred to himself in the past as "300 pounds of fun."

"To be honest, the public will all appreciate us for not running the ones where we actually had him pouring gravy on himself like in [the movie] Flashdance," Hollett said.

Hollett said Now's web traffic had spiked to over 50 per cent of its highest daily total as of 3 p.m. ET Thursday