BOSTON — Bill Cosby fired back Monday at seven women who are suing him for defamation, accusing them of making false accusations of sexual misconduct for financial gain.

In a countersuit filed in federal court, Cosby alleges the women made “malicious, opportunistic, and false and defamatory accusations” against him. Cosby is seeking monetary damages “to the maximum extent permitted by law.”

The women have claimed Cosby defamed them by allowing his representatives to brand them as liars after they went public with allegations of rape and other sexual misconduct dating back decades.

In his counterclaim, the comedian says the women have “engaged in a campaign to assassinate” his reputation and character. He says their campaign is “nothing more than an opportunistic attempt to extract financial gain from him.”

The women suing Cosby in U.S. District Court in Springfield are among about 50 who have come forward with allegations of rape or unwanted sexual contact over the last year. Cosby has a home in Shelburne in western Massachusetts.

Cosby’s lawyers say that his reputation and career have been damaged by the women, noting that they filed their defamation lawsuit against Cosby at a time when he was set to return to television.

Once news of his return to TV became well publicized in 2014, each of the women “repeatedly and maliciously published their unsubstantiated stories through multiple interviews and posts on social media platforms,” Cosby’s lawyers wrote. NBC dropped plans for the show after multiple women came forward with allegations.

When Cosby’s former longtime attorney, Martin Singer, defended the comedian by denying accusations of sexual misconduct, the women filed a defamation suit against him “to silence his defenses and monetize their false accusations,” his attorneys wrote.

Cosby’s lawyers cite comments one of the women, Therese Serignese, made to The Huffington Post in November 2014.

Serignese said Cosby drugged and raped her in 1976 and that she called him after her mother said Cosby maybe would “take care of you.”

Serignese told the website that she contacted Cosby in the 1990s and accepted money from him after being injured in a car accident.

—From news service reports