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Cory Booker on Zuckerberg Gift: We Had to Convince Mark Not to Be Anonymous

Newark mayor calls media speculation of thinly-veiled P.R. campaign ”cynical“

Newark mayor Cory Booker and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg hosted a conference call on Friday to discuss Zuckerberg’s $100 million stock donation to the city’s public schools. And Booker batted down media speculation — mine included — that the face of Facebook timed his gift to soften the blow of “The Social Network,” David Fincher’s film that portrays the 26-year-old as “an insecure jerk,” hitting select theaters the same day.

Booker was asked point-blank if Zuckerberg’s gift was “a public relations effort against movie."

“No!” Booker said and later tweeted. “We had to convince Mark not to be anonymous.”

Zuckerberg — who just this week shot past Steve Jobs on Forbes’ “Richest in America” list — explained his rationale for the donation in a post on Facebook.

“Rather than waiting until later in life to focus on giving back,” he wrote. “I've spent a lot of the last year researching and looking for the most impactful ways to improve education starting in America.”

Zuckerberg picked Newark because the city “has unfortunately become a symbol of public education's failure — of a status quo that accepts schools that don't succeed … Going to a school with boarded up windows and broken glass should not be a part of our education experience. A child's biggest fear at school should be their next exam, not weapons or the kid sitting next to them.”

Meanwhile, the stars of “The Social Network” — Jesse Eisenberg, Justin Timberlake, Andrew Garfield, Armie Hammer and screenwriter Aaron Sorkin — are scheduled to participate in a live online discussion of the film … on MySpace.

The discussion — hosted by Olivia Munn — is slated for Sunday at 5:30 p.m. (ET).

As has been reported, Facebook is largely ignoring the film, forcing Columbia Pictures — the studio behind “The Social Network” — to circumvent the blackout on other social network sites.

However, the movie does have an unofficial page on Facebook with more than 30,000 fans.

And Columbia suggests visitors to the official website for “The Social Network” recommend it to their Facebook friends via a prominently-displayed “like” button.