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Current as of 25/04/17 09:40AM NZST
Ben Hill is a reporter for The New Zealand Herald

American Gary Belis arrives in New Zealand to get away from United States President Donald Trump

Gary Belis' badge of honour is a scathing letter written by the man he flew halfway across the world to get away from - United States President Donald Trump.

Belis arrived in New Zealand this morning as he fled the US to avoid the new President, and is in the country on a 90-day tourist visa.

Speaking to the Herald from his Auckland hotel room, Belis said he "has history with Mr Trump".

"I reviewed his book and got a very vitriolic letter which is actually a badge of honour, it hung on my wall for some time... nowadays it would be a tweet, but back in the old days it came on paper."

Belis, 64, wrote a review of Trump's first book Trump: The Art of the Deal for Fortune magazine in 1988.

In reply, Trump said Belis' "attack on me, not the book, is so vicious and personal in nature that I actually had to laugh at its stupidity and the obvious and deep-seated prejudice Mr Belis has displayed".

Belis told the Herald he has been keeping a close eye on the new president since then.

"I've been watching him more than the average person, all of these years. When you get a letter like that... I think I was on to him in the first book, pointing out the things in the book that simply weren't true and his tendency to exaggerate, which over the years was so interesting to me, he hasn't evolved in any way, he's as thin-skinned as he was when he took exception to the review.

President Donald Trump speaks at The Salute To Our Armed Services Inaugural Ball in Washington. Photo / AP
President Donald Trump speaks at The Salute To Our Armed Services Inaugural Ball in Washington. Photo / AP

"Now that he's President of the United States and has access to levers of power, that tendency to lash out at any perceived slight is rather frightening."

Belis said he decided that if Trump was elected he would leave the country. On the date of Trump's inauguration in Washington D.C., Belis arrived at Auckland International Airport.

He is unsure as to how long he will stay in New Zealand before his visa expires, but he plans to eventually visit Australia and is also considering a trip to Africa.

Despite travelling all the way to New Zealand, Belis said he is still unable to escape The Don.

New Yorker Gary Belis has made the big move to New Zealand to escape the rule of President Donald Trump. Photo / Facebook
New Yorker Gary Belis has made the big move to New Zealand to escape the rule of President Donald Trump. Photo / Facebook

"It's a beautiful country, I love it here, I've only been here for one day but I've certainly loved everyone I've been meeting.... one of the things I wanted to do in getting out of the [United States] is not have the television on and watch the speech.

"Even the cab driver heard my American accent and the first thing he wanted to talk about is Trump and that's been happening all day... I'm going to have to start telling people I'm Canadian."

- NZ Herald

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