I've seen a number of sites in defense of the Ephraim monasteries as well except that there have been more stories of the cult-like influences.
Have you investigated these stories to see where they're coming from? Sheer volume alone (more stories on the side of falsehood than on the side of truth) does not make a story more credible. Maybe those who talked of Elder
Ephraim's "cult-like" influence were merely the more vocal.
My hunch is that the Archdiocese has instructed the Metropolitans to keep these monasteries in check for fear of losing pilgrimages - my relatives visit the Ephraim monastery in Roscoe, New York a few times a year.
And what does your hunch mean if it is merely a response to slander? Do you really know anything about these monasteries except what you've read from those who have launched an online smear campaign?
Just because one believes that a cult cannot exist in Orthodoxy does not mean that someone can try to establish a cult, replacing Christ with oneself.
True. But is it possible that one may devote himself to a cult-like following of a particular figure who does not want this following? After all, many of the Lystran locals wanted to worship St. Paul as though he were Hermes (along with St. Barnabas, whom they acclaimed as Zeus), yet Paul and Barnabas would not allow them to do so. (cf. Acts 14:8-18)
ps. To show such disrespect to Elder Ephraim as to drop the title "Elder" from his name diminishes your credibility here. Please get yourself in the habit of referring to our bishops, priests, and abbots by their formal titles and not by their names only.