By Stephen M. Silverman
Updated November 12, 2003 10:19 AM

Hustler magazine publisher Larry Flynt says he purchased nude photos of Pfc. Jessica Lynch but now will not run them in the February issue after all, because she’s a “good kid” who became “a pawn for the government.”

Flynt tells the Associated Press that he bought the topless photos last month from male soldiers who purportedly participated in the amateur shoot with the Army supply clerk. The men “wanted to let it be known that she’s not all apple pie,” Flynt said.

“My first intention was to publish them, but I don’t think it was the best, positive move I could make,” Flynt tells the news service. “She’s very much a pawn for the government. They force-fed us a Joan of Arc.”

Speaking to AP, Lynch declined to comment on any aspect of the photos, including whether they even exist.

Her attorney, Stephen Goodwin, however, did appear to confirm their existence. In a statement he said: “It’s incredulous that anyone would think it appropriate in any way to attempt to publish unauthorized photos of Jessica — photos taken before she was deployed to Iraq and before her capture and rescue.”

Meanwhile, as Reuters reports, despite a media blitz that had her speaking (on tape) to Diane Sawyer on ABC Tuesday night and to Katie Couric (live) on NBC Wednesday morning, Lynch’s autobiography, “I Am a Soldier, Too: The Jessica Lynch Story,” was greeted in bookstores Tuesday by disappointing sales figures.

While Hillary Rodham Clinton’s “Living History” had book-buyers lining up around the block earlier this year, not a single copy of “Soldier” had been sold by midday on Tuesday, Veterans Day, at a Barnes & Noble store on Chicago’s North Side, an employee who declined to be identified told Reuters.

In Manhattan, a Barnes & Noble employee said sales of the book were only “moderate. It certainly has not been exceptional.” Another store in the neighborhood had sold one copy by lunchtime. ranked the book 21st in sales, not a good sign for its first day — and well below the ranking of the top-selling “The Da Vinci Code” and “The South Beach Diet.”

A spokesman for the Lynch family could not be reached for comment, while her publicist at publisher Alfred A. Knopf did not return calls, said Reuters.