The White House said Tuesday that some of the anger that Democratic lawmakers have encountered at town hall meetings over the past several days is "manufactured."
"In fact, I think you've had groups today, Conservatives for Patients Rights, that have bragged about organizing and manufacturing that anger," White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said.
The debate over President Obama's top domestic priority is escalating as Congress takes a month-long recess. Several lawmakers have been booed, jeered, and occasionally cheered by protesters on their home turfs at town hall meetings on health care reform.
Gibbs singled out Rick Scott, chairman of Conservatives for Patients' Rights, as the ringleader.
"I think you've got somebody who's very involved, a leader of that group that's very involved in the status quo, a CEO that used to run a health care company that was fined by the federal government $1.7 billion for fraud. I think that's a lot of what you need to know about the motives of that group."
Scott said no needs to "manufacture" anger or concern "when 86 percent of Americans are happy with their current health care and they feel that it is threatened by a massive government take over."
"It is a shame that Mr. Gibbs chooses to dismiss these Americans and their very real concerns instead of opting to level personal attacks," he said in a statement. "The simple fact is that the more Americans learn about the president's public options plan, the more they realize it is a massive government takeover plan that will mean higher taxes, bigger deficits and interfere with their current coverage resulting in delayed or denied medical care for them and their families. That is why support for his plan is plummeting like a rock."
The weekend events taken together with polls reflecting growing public doubts about the president's push to remake the system for providing medical care reflect the public mood and the obstacles facing the Obama administration.
Four of five congressional committees have approved versions of health care bills, but lawmakers fell short of Obama's deadline for the House and Senate to vote on bills before their August recess. That sets up a September showdown on the legislation and all sides have moved into high gear.
Sen. Arlen Specter, D-Pa., and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius faced an antagonistic, standing-room-only crowd Sunday at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia. Rep. Steve Kagen of Wisconsin encountered a rowdy mob of protesters at a town hall meeting on Monday night. And Rep. Llloyd Doggett, D-Texas, was surrounded by protesters shouting "Just say no!" to Democrats' health plans in Texas over the weekend. He accused Republicans of organizing the opposition.
"This mob ... did not come just to be heard, but to deny others the right to be heard. And this appears to be part of a coordinated, nationwide effort," Doggett said in a statement. "What could be more appropriate for the 'party of not' than having its stalwarts drowning out the voices of their neighbors by screaming 'Just say no!'"
The Democratic National Committee has dismissed the protests as "mob rule."
"The Republicans and their allied groups desperate after losing two consecutive elections and every major policy fight on Capitol Hill ... are inciting angry mobs of a small number of rabid right wing extremists funded by K Street Lobbyists to disrupt thoughtful discussions about the future of health care in America taking place in Congressional Districts across the country," DNC spokesman Brad Woodhouse said in a statement.
Woodhouse said Republican operatives and special interests are funding and organizing these groups in an effort to stop Obama's top domestic priority.
"The right wing extremists' use of things like devil horns on pictures of our elected officials, hanging members of Congress in effigy, breathlessly questioning the president's citizenship and the use of Nazi SS symbols and the like just shows how outside of the mainstream the Republican Party and their allies are," he said. "This type of anger and discord did not serve Republicans well in 2008 ... and it is bound to backfire again."
Specter, a recent Republican-turned-Democrat, said he thought political organizations orchestrated some of the commotion, but that individuals with serious concerns -- some in dire medical conditions -- were also there.
He said other lawmakers can expect the same as they face voters on the divisive issue of overhauling health care.
"I wouldn't be surprised if that's the harbinger of things to come," Specter said.
But some town hall goers say they have not been organized.
Shelly Colby told FOX News that most of the people that turned out for Doggett's town hall were there to speak to the lawmaker.
"We weren't coerced by the Republicans, the Libertarian. We came out on our own because we have real concerns about the bills," she said.
Not all Democratic lawmakers have had to contend with unruly crowds at their town hall meetings.
Rep. Elijah Cummings told FOX News he didn't get shouted down at a town hall meeting he held in Baltimore.
"As a matter of fact, there was no incident like other town hall meetings, and that's because I had an opportunity to explain to these veterans exactly what we're trying to do and how it would affect them and their family," Cummings said.