NEW YORK – Rosie O'Donnell is asking to have her name and voice removed from an Oscar-nominated documentary after learning that the filmmakers are involved in a group that has been described as a homophobic cult.
The talk show host, who recently came out as a lesbian, narrated Artists and Orphans: A True Drama, about a New York theater group that travels to the former Soviet republic of Georgia to help orphaned and abandoned children. The film is competing against two other documentary shorts for an Academy Award on Sunday.
O'Donnell, who has three adopted children and has been a vocal proponent of gays adopting children, volunteered to narrate the short.
But her spokeswoman said Wednesday that O'Donnell found out this week that the filmmakers — including director Lianne Klapper McNally — are involved with the Fourth Way School. The group emphasizes personal development, and, according to various newspaper reports, bans homosexuals and believes gays shouldn't be parents.
"If Rosie had known the truth about this organization, she never would have consented to lend her name and voice," said O'Donnell's publicist, Cindi Berger.
She added that "Rosie is angry that the background wasn't disclosed to her."
During her show Wednesday morning, O'Donnell said she was angry about her association with the film.
Klapper McNally has an unlisted phone number and did not immediately respond to an e-mail request for comment. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences also did not immediately return a call for comment; voting for the awards concluded Tuesday.
David Goldstein, a lawyer representing the film, told New York's Daily News that suggesting that Artists and Orphans is "the work of some kind of nefarious cult is completely baseless."
"Furthermore, the inflammatory accusation that certain people affiliated with the film are involved in an organization that endangers the welfare of children or discriminates against ... gays and lesbians or families is without foundation," Goldstein said.
Rick Ross, a New Jersey-based cult expert and lecturer who helped deprogram Branch Davidians in the mid-'90s, said the Fourth Way is a cult and excludes gays.
"They must renounce their sexual preference and work toward becoming heterosexual," said Ross, who said he has spent hours talking with former members.
Articles from 1996 in the Los Angeles Times and from 1995 in the San Diego Union-Tribune about a branch of the Fourth Way School, in Oregon House, Calif., said the group bans gays.