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FILE PHOTO - Actor and comedian Bill Cosby arrives at his sexual assault trial at the Montgomery County Courthouse in Norristown, Pennsylvania, U.S., on June 16, 2017. REUTERS/Tom Mihalek/File Photo

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By Nate Raymond

BOSTON (Reuters) - A U.S. appeals court will on Wednesday weigh whether to revive a lawsuit by an actress who said Bill Cosby defamed her by calling her a liar after she claimed the comedian raped her.

The 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston is scheduled to hear arguments by lawyers for Katherine Mae McKee, who claimed Cosby defamed her by denying her claims, which she made in an interview with the New York Daily News in 2014.

She is one of dozens of women who made allegations of sexual assault by Cosby going back decades, shattering his family-friendly reputation built upon a long career highlighted by his starring role in the 1980s television comedy "The Cosby Show."

Most of the allegations are too old to be criminally prosecuted, though Cosby is awaiting an April re-trial in Pennsylvania on charges he sexually assaulted a former basketball coach at his alma mater, Temple University.

Cosby, 80, has denied wrongdoing in all the cases, saying any encounters with his accusers were consensual.

McKee appeared in a 1971 episode of "The Bill Cosby Show." She sued the entertainer in December 2015, a year after telling the New York Daily News that Cosby raped her in a Detroit hotel room in 1974.

The day the Daily News published its article, a lawyer for Cosby wrote a letter to the newspaper calling the article "defamatory," characterizing McKee's claims as "wild" and saying the accusations could be proven inaccurate.

The Daily News subsequently published an article about the letter. McKee, who was living in Nevada at the time, then sued, claiming that Cosby defamed her by saying she had lied in making her allegations.

U.S. District Judge Mark Mastroianni dismissed the lawsuit in February, saying Cosby's statements were protected by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which protects the right to free speech.

(Reporting by Nate Raymond; Editing by Scott Malone)

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