WASHINGTON - The state of Arizona, Whole Foods, various lobbyists - they're all paying a price this summer amid a blistering debate on health-care reform in the United States that's bitterly pitting left against right.
Officials in Phoenix are trying to convince travel guide guru Arthur Frommer to reconsider his recent proclamation: he doesn't consider Arizona a safe travel destination after seeing images of armed protesters outside a presidential event in the city last week.
"I will not personally travel in a state where civilians carry loaded weapons onto the sidewalks and as a means of political protest," said Frommer in a message to his readers on the Frommers.com website. "And I will begin thinking about whether tourists should safeguard themselves by avoiding stays in Arizona."
Frommer was referring to the scene outside a town hall on health-care reform hosted by President Barack Obama, where several protesters in the crowd toted guns. They included one man with an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle who was engaging in a stunt for a libertarian radio show.
Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon and other civic officials personally appealed to Frommer to reconsider, inviting him to the city to clear up any misconceptions about its safety. Arizona is one of several American states that allow citizens to openly carry weapons.
"It's a great place to live, work, raise a family and particularly to visit," Gordon said. "Phoenix is one of the safest major cities in the United States."
Whole Foods, meantime, was dealing with a similar backlash. The organic supermarket chain was facing a growing boycott by its largely liberal, well-heeled customers almost two weeks after company president John Mackey argued against health-care reform.
"A careful reading of both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution will not reveal any intrinsic right to health care, food or shelter, because there isn't any," Mackey wrote in a piece that also alleged 830,000 Canadians were waiting for treatment north of the border.
"This 'right' has never existed in America."
By Sunday, more than 25,000 Whole Foods customers had joined the boycott as some advertising analysts warned Mackey's views represented the kind of "brand dissonance" that could hurt the company's bottom line.
"I just won't go there again, it's as simple as that," said Meredith Taylor, 45, as she pored over peaches recently at a Whole Foods competitor - Trader Joe's - in Silver Spring, MD.
"Trader Joe's is cheaper anyway and just as good, and I just can't bring myself to spend my money at a place knowing that's the mindset. It's an inhumane viewpoint, it's selfish and wrong, and it's not what this country is supposed to be all about."
Two vocal opponents of Obama's health-care reform plans have also lost jobs in the heat of the battle.
Betsy McCaughey, the former Republican lieutenant governor of New York, resigned from the board of a New Jersey medical device company after weeks of alleging the Obama plan will mandate end-of-life consultations that could lead to the forced euthanization of the sick and elderly.
"Ms. McCaughey, who had served as a director since 2005, stated that she was resigning to avoid any appearance of a conflict of interest during the national debate over health-care reform," the company said in a release.
The announcement came Friday, a day after she appeared on the popular "Daily Show" and sparred with host Jon Stewart, who challenged her interpretation of the health-care reform bill while calling her "dangerous" and "hyperbolic."
Republican Dick Armey, the former House majority leader, also recently resigned from an international law firm amid a wave of negative press about his grassroots organization, Freedom Works. The lobby group has been working with members of Congress to help organize protests at health-care town hall meetings that have frequently erupted into angry shouting matches.
Armey said his law firm, DLA Piper, had been unfairly linked with Freedom Works and was forced to shoot down "spurious allegations."
"No client of this firm is going to be free to mind its own business without harassment as long as I'm associated with it," Armey said.
The resignation came days after DLA Piper sent out an e-mail making clear it wasn't actively involved in protesting health-care reform.
"On the contrary, DLA Piper represents clients who support enactment of effective health care reform this year and encourages responsible national debate," the e-mail read.
Fox News, a vehement opponent of Obama's plans, was also facing a continuing advertiser pullout as tensions simmered.
At least 20 corporations - including Wal-Mart, Procter and Gamble and Best Buy - have pulled advertising from Fox News personality Glenn Beck's 5 p.m. show to protest his July 28th comments on the program "Fox and Friends."
Beck called Obama a "racist" with a "deep-seated hatred for white people" in the midst of the controversy about the arrest in Massachusetts of a black professor, Henry Louis Gates, as he tried to enter his home.
In a televised news conference, Obama said the Cambridge, Mass., police had acted "stupidly" in arresting Gates as a suspected burglar, and suggested the investigating officers had partaken in racial profiling.
Beck has since compared Obama's sweeping health-care overhaul to Adolf Hitler's Third Reich policies.