Vice President Joe Biden gave no clues on whether he was any closer to jumping into the presidential race as he accepted a human rights award Saturday night from a Greek Orthodox Church group.
Biden spoke of the need to protect religious freedom abroad and fight anti-Semitism and hate at home. He said his faith has carried him during dark times.
"So, we defend religious liberty not just because it's a moral imperative, because it improves and will improve the security of people everywhere against violent extremists," he said in accepting the honor from the Order of St. Andrew, Archons of the Ecumenical Patriarchate at the New York Hilton Hotel in Manhattan.ColumnBiden backer: 'Joe speaks from his heart'PhotosCheat sheet: Fast facts on Democratic presidential contendersOpinionOpinion: Who lost the Dem debate? Biden did
Biden said: "We have to remain vigilant here at home as well, fighting the insidious forces we still struggle against." He urged people to call out "anti-Muslim rhetoric when it seeps into our day-to-day discourse."
Referring to deadly hate crimes in recent years, he said, "We have to guard against hateful mindsets here and abroad that leads someone to shoot up a Sikh temple, a Jewish community center, a prayer group in Charleston, South Carolina."
The possibility that Biden might mount a 2016 campaign was floated more than two months ago, but he has yet to give a clear indication that he will become a candidate. The emotional toll on Biden family's from the death last spring of his son, Beau, was said to be a factor in his considerations.
Aides and supporters have been preparing the groundwork if he does decide to run and have signaled that they were undaunted by front-runner Hillary Rodham Clinton's much-praised performance in Tuesday's debate. Recent polls place him in third place among Democratic voters behind Clinton and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, an independent.
A small Biden team reportedly has been sketching a campaign blueprint and screening likely staffers. Former Delaware Sen. Ted Kaufman, a Biden confidant, wrote a letter to former Biden staffers Thursday that said: "If he decides to run, we will need each and every one of you -- yesterday!" The Associated Press reported.
Biden is 72. His past campaigns for the 1988 and 2008 Democratic presidential nominations attracted little support.