UPDATE 1-Trump loses bid to dismiss accuser's defamation lawsuit

(Adds details from decision, background, case citation)

March 20 (Reuters) - A woman who said Donald Trump sexually harassed her after she appeared on his former reality show "The Apprentice" can proceed with her defamation suit against him, a New York state judge ruled on Tuesday, raising the possibility of the U.S. president being forced to answer questions about his behavior toward women.

Justice Jennifer Schecter in the Manhattan Supreme Court said there was "absolutely no authority" to dismiss or stay a civil lawsuit by Summer Zervos related "purely to unofficial conduct" because Trump was U.S. president.

"No one is above the law," the judge wrote.

Trump was not immediately available for comment. A lawyer for Zervos was also not immediately available.

The ruling could force Trump to submit to questioning by lawyers for Zervos and lead to further public scrutiny of other claims of sexual misconduct that have been made against the president.

During the 2016 presidential campaign, Zervos, a restaurateur, was one of several women who accused Trump of sexual misconduct after the emergence of a conversation caught on an open microphone in 2005, in which Trump spoke in vulgar terms about trying to have sex with women.

She had met Trump after becoming a contestant on NBC's "The Apprentice" in 2005 and accused him of kissing her against her will at his New York office in 2007 and later groping her in a Beverly Hills hotel after she met with him about a possible job.

During his presidential campaign, Trump repeatedly said at rallies and on Twitter that all of the accusations made by women after the tape became public were "lies." At one point, he re-published on Twitter another user's post that called Summer's accusation a "hoax."

"In their context, defendant's repeated statements ... cannot be characterized simply as opinion, heated rhetoric or hyperbole," Schecter wrote.

The case is Zervos v Trump, New York State Supreme Court, New York County, No. 150522/2017. (Reporting By Brendan Pierson in New York; Editing by Ben Klayman and Bill Trott)